Forest Fires and Air Quality

Forest fires are the second largest source of fine particulate matter from wood smoke in the province. These fires can have a significant impact on local air quality, visibility, and human health. Emissions from forest fires can travel large distances and produce harmful effects far away from the fire location.

Forest fire emissions include:

  • Particulate matter
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Atmospheric mercury
  • Ozone-forming chemicals
  • Volatile organic compounds

British Columbia partners with provincial and federal agencies to produce smoke forecasts through the Blue Sky Canada system (PDF). These forecasts predict ground level concentrations of fine particulate matter up to 48 hours in the future. Forecasts are available during the summer forest fire season.

Severe forest fires can be the result of fuel buildup. To prevent this, prescribed burning can be used as a fuel management tool. It means a fire is deliberately set and burns in a designated area. It helps develop healthy forest ecosystems and wildlife, and reduces the risks of wildfire.