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Posted: March 26, 2020

Open burning restrictions for high smoke sensitivity zones

The B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, in collaboration with provincial public health partners, has today (March 26) issued open burning restrictions for all High Smoke Sensitivity Zones across the province until Wednesday, April 15.

No new fires may be initiated and no additional material may be added to existing fires.

Real-time air quality observations and information regarding the health effects of air pollution can be found here.

As cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in B.C. continue to increase, the BC Centre for Disease Control recommends implementing measures that help to reduce excess air pollution in populated airsheds across the province. There is strong evidence that exposure to air pollution increases susceptibility to respiratory viral infections by decreasing immune function.

This means that:

  • Deterioration in air quality may lead to more COVID-19 infections overall;
  • Deterioration in air quality may lead to more cases of severe COVID-19 infections, adding further demand to our healthcare system; and
  • Improvements to air quality may help to protect the whole population from COVID-19 and its potentially severe effects.

Evidence suggests that air pollution from combustion sources is most strongly associated with increased risk of viral infection, particularly vehicle emissions and biomass burning. At this time the BC Centre for Disease Control strongly recommends that open burning of biomass fuels be restricted in areas with high or moderate risk of population exposure to the resulting smoke, a ministry media release stated.

“While the focus should remain on social distancing to prevent the spread of infection and reduce the number of cases, keeping our air as clean as possible will also help to protect the population during this difficult period,” the ministry said, adding for this reason it is restricting open burning in some parts of the province.

“These restrictions will be evaluated on a daily basis; the area to which they apply may grow or diminish accordingly.”

Lead and above image: A map showing affected high smoke sensitivity zones shown in yellow. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy map


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