Thickening smoke around Kamloops keeping most indoors, but not everyone

By Chad Klassen
August 1, 2017 - 1:17pm Updated: August 1, 2017 - 5:41pm

KAMLOOPS — Thick smoke continues to blanket the city and surround area, much of it drifting from the Elephant Hill wildfire north of Clinton that has now grown to more than 84,000 hectares as of late Tuesday afternoon. 

But the smoke is not stopping people from enoying outdoor activities. Bev Day and Liz Rottensten are out for their daily walk through Riverside Park, not letting the thick smoke keep them indoors. 

"I haven't had an issue with it because I don't have any health issues," said Day. "But I try not to spend too much extra time out. We've been walking regularly by the river for an hour."

Rottensten, who is also healthy, noted the smoke hasn't bothered her too much. 

"I've noticed the last couple days when it was thicker than normal, I did get a headache. But walking near the river is not quite as bad as once you get up [away from the water]," she said. 

The air quality in Kamloops got as high as a 9 on the index after hovering around 7 in the morning. It's the higest rating in the province — even more than Williams Lake, which is at a 7. 

As a result, Riverside Park is not nearly as busy on smoky days, but one could spot the odd walker on Tuesday. Those having to work outdoors, like general labourers with the City of Kamloops, could be seen wearing masks. 

"Usually when we're hitting around 7, where we've been at lately, the elderly, the very young, people with asthma, people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD, people with health conditions are really at risk at 7," said public health nurse Jessi Minnabarriet. "As the scale goes higher, so when we're looking at around 10, we're all at significant risk."

Interior Health has been recommending people with health issues remain indoors, and if you're outdoors and you feel any symptoms, get out of the smoke. 

Meantime, inside the Heritage House, a group of retirees enjoyed a few games of floor curling without worry of smoke. 

"It's great because the air is circulating and we are able to get the smoke out of the building, so it works out really well," said Maureen Hickey, who's part of the Kamloops Floor Curling Club. 

Hickey is thankful for the indoor activity, someone who reacts to the smoke outside. 

"I have eye irritation and it does affect my voice sometimes, and my nose runs," she noted. "But hey, it's a lot better than losing your home or being evacuated."

Pushing for Change: Youth Homelessness Advocate strides into Kamloops