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UPDATE: Environment Canada issues air quality statement for Terrace due to wildfire smoke

Nearly 40 wildfires are active in northwestern B.C., as dry conditions and a heatwave persist
Hazy skies over Terrace on July 8, as Environment Canada issues an air quality statement for the city amid wildfire smoke across northwest B.C. (Kevin Shenanaganz Bolton/Facebook)

Environment Canada issued an air quality statement for Terrace on July 8, cautioning residents that the city and surrounding areas were expected to experience increased levels of wildfire smoke over the next 24 to 48 hours.

The federal weather agency expected significant amounts of smoke to persist across northeastern B.C., notably around Williston Lake. The broad haze, which had been spreading across various regions of the province, was also anticipated to impact Terrace.

Environment Canada added that smoke conditions were likely to be highly variable, particularly in areas close to new fires. This fluctuation was to occur even if local precipitation momentarily reduces the smoke.

Northwest B.C. experienced heightened activity on July 7, with thunderstorms and lightning storms sparking fresh fires, exacerbating the already dire situation faced by the BC Wildfire Service.

The BC Wildfire Service’s Northwest Fire Centre was currently monitoring nearly 40 active wildfires, with all but four of those fires classified as out of control, second only to the Prince George Fire Centre.

July 7 saw the ignition of three new wildfires within 60 kilometres of Terrace. The city of Kitimat also reported three fires within 30 kilometres of its centre, including one near Kitimat Village. All fires near Terrace and Kitimat were considered out of control.

For weeks, the BC Wildfire Service has warned of a severe wildfire season due to dry conditions and limited rainfall, which makes forest fuels extremely vulnerable to ignition with minimal human intervention. The Terrace area has experienced fewer than a dozen wildfires in recent weeks, all of which were quickly contained thanks to rapid response times and relatively calm wind conditions.

READ MORE: Drought, forecasted hot temperatures to raise wildfire risks in Terrace this summer

Terrace and Kitimat remain under a Drought Level 3 warning, signalling potential adverse impacts. Environment Canada has reported that Terrace has received roughly 75 per cent of its normal rainfall in June and roughly 50 per cent in May, exacerbating the situation.

Both Terrace and Kitimat are also currently under a “high” fire danger rating, indicating that fires are challenging to control and can easily ignite due to factors such as drought and dry forest fuels. (That rating was last updated on July 8, at 12 p.m.)

While Terrace did not experience significant thunderstorm or lightning activity, the city has been grappling with an ongoing drought, dry conditions and a heatwave that has pushed temperatures well above seasonal averages. Temperatures in the area have frequently reached 30 degrees Celsius this week. Earlier in the week, Environment Canada issued a heat warning for Terrace and Kitimat and that still remains in effect until likely Monday, alerting residents to the potential risks of heat-related illnesses.

READ MORE: Terrace set for record-breaking heatwave, as Environment Canada issues heat warning

The most recent forecast from Environment Canada, updated at 10 a.m. PDT on July 8, predicted continued high temperatures in Terrace throughout the weekend and into July 10, with daytime temperatures hovering above 30 degrees Celsius. July 8’s daytime high temperature were expected to be 34 degrees Celsius, while the low is expected at 14 degrees Celsius — giving little reprieve from the heat.

A slight decrease to the mid-20s is expected on July 11 and July 12 next week, but temperatures are predicted to climb once again towards the latter part of the week, Environment Canada meteorologist Lisa Erven.

Little precipitation, if any, is expected over the next seven days, as has been the case for much of the summer thus far.

A 40 per cent chance of thunderstorms over Terrace was forecasted on July 8, with a 40 per cent chance of showers later in the evening.

Environment Canada forecasted a 30 per cent chance of thunderstorms for the city on July 9 as well.

The federal weather agency issued a severe thunderstorm watch just before 11 a.m. on July 8.

Viktor Elias joined the Terrace Standard in April 2023.

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