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On behalf of the Interior Health Office of the Medical Health Officers please see the attached information related to Preparation for Extreme Heat and Wildfire Smoke for this summer.

The probabilistic temperature forecast from Environment Canada indicates the southern interior of B.C. will face above normal temperatures this summer1. Interior Health has compiled some information that can help communities prevent and reduce the negative health impacts of extreme heat while also complying with public health recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in your community.

Heat and Health

Climate change has led to overall temperature increases and consequently, several communities in the B.C. Interior are at risk for extreme heat events2. Extreme heat events can have serious negative effects on health. Community and individual action can reduce the health impacts of heat. The information below may help identify some opportunities to integrate heat and wildfire-related precautions into your organizational activities.

Environment and Climate Change Canada defines an extreme heat event for the Interior of B.C. as two or more consecutive days with temperatures greater than or equal to 35°C, with minimum overnight temperatures greater than or equal to 18°C. Additional factors, such as high humidity, lack of wind and exposure to direct sunlight can compound stress on the body. Further, the number of days heat lasts can exacerbate harm caused by extreme heat; the strain on the body increases as heat days extend. Also, some individuals and groups are more susceptible than others.

Those at Higher Risk to Health Impacts of Heat

  • older adults
  • people with chronic poor health, heart problems or breathing difficulties
  • people on certain medications
  • people who live alone or are socially isolated, homeless or unsheltered
  • infants and children
  • people who are physically active outdoors or work outdoors
  • people wearing personal protective equipment in places not temperature controlled

It is important to know that everyone can be affected by extreme heat and can suffer from heat illness or the more serious state of heat stroke. Planning for the heat season and taking action when the weather gets hot is the best way to stay healthy.

Prepare for the Heat Season

Supporting community members to utilize cooler outdoor spaces can be helpful. Outdoor spaces that have protection from the sun can also enable physical distancing. Your organization can promote cooler outdoor areas in the community such as large parks near to water with shade trees. Signage on physical distancing should be displayed to remind people of precautions to reduce spread of COVID-19.

Community members who are experiencing homelessness or who do not have a home to spend the day in may require additional support when there is wildfire smoke. Planning for clean air shelters that allow for appropriate physical distancing may be needed for this vulnerable population.

Wildfire smoke is an important consideration when planning the small outdoor community events that are permissible during the COVID-19 pandemic. When possible, identification of an alternate indoor ‘clean air space’ location is ideal. If an indoor clean air space is identified, precautions to reduce spread of COVID-19 will be necessary (i.e. limiting the number of people to permit physical distancing). When wildfire smoke is present, the risk to attendees at outdoor events can be reduced by shortening the length of the event (i.e. reduced game time, shorten lesson/presentation/concert). Event organizers and coaches should be aware that people react differently to smoke and should pay special attention to younger, older and/or participants with respiratory or chronic illness.

Smoke Information Resources

The links below describe some actions that your organization and community members can take to stay healthy during wildfire smoke events.

It is important to anticipate natural events and consider the role your organization can play to support community members to stay healthy. It is also important to emphasize that heat-related illness can be a greater immediate threat to health than poor air quality. We urge you to consider the information enclosed in your organizational planning and post information for the public to help increase awareness of potential health risks and how to mitigate.

Wildfire & Health – COVID-19

BC Centre for Disease Control:

Wildfire & Health - General

HealthLink BC prepare before during and after a wildfire:

Wildfires and Your Health

BC Centre for Disease Control fact sheet series:

Wildfire Smoke Response Planning

Interior Health:

Emergency Information Wildfires Page