Wildfire smoke from the south lingers low over Salmon Arm’s Blackburn Park on the evening of Monday, Sept. 14, while Mount Ida in the background is completely shrouded in smoke. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)

Salmon Arm gets its own predictor of air movement over the city

Residents can now see if city likely to be blanketed in stagnant smoke

Will today be ones of those days when smoke settles over the community, or will it be a day when winds disperse the smoke, allowing the sun to shine through?

Salmon Arm now has a more accurate way to answer these kinds of questions.

Salmon Arm Fire Chief Brad Shirley told city council on Sept. 14 that the provincial Ministry of Environment recently added a reading to its ventilation index that is specific to the city. (Click on the general area to the right of Kamloops.) In the past, Salmon Arm has been lumped under ‘Okanagan Valley.’

Shirley said it will provide a more accurate assessment.

The province’s smoke control forecast with its ventilation index gives people who wish to burn outdoors an indication of whether it will be permitted. The index is defined as: “a measure of atmospheric turbulence and low level winds, for 25 B.C. locations.”

Also, in times of wildfires, the index can give an indication of whether smoke will be lingering.

Coun. Kevin Flynn asked if venting in Salmon Arm and area, with its lack of winds, is worse than in the Okanagan Valley.

Shirley said it really differs. Sometimes it’s worse but it all depends on the air currents and air flow.

Coun. Tim Lavery termed the Salmon Arm venting index a huge improvement.

The index for Salmon Arm was listed as 26 and ‘poor’ for Monday, Sept. 14. A reading of 55 to 100 is considered good, 34 to 54 is fair and zero to 33 is poor.

However, things look better for Tuesday, Sept. 15, as the venting index is described as good at 57.

Read more: Air quality bulletin still in place for Okanagan

Read more: 2018 – Filmmaker captures the smoke that enveloped the Shuswap

Different from the venting index is the air quality health index. It can be found under ‘air quality data.’

Salmon Arm does not have its own listing for air quality. It sits between Kamloops and North Okanagan.

On Sept. 14, the air quality health index for North Okanagan, and many areas across B.C., was listed as 10+ or ‘very high.’

The website recommends that people restrict or reschedule any strenuous outside exercise at that rating. At 10+, people who are considered ‘at risk’ are advised to avoid strenuous activities outdoors altogether. Children and the elderly are also advised to avoid outdoor physical exertion. For Kamloops on Sept. 14, the air quality health index was listed as 9 or ‘high.’

For Sept. 15, the forecast improved a little, with Kamloops predicted to see a lower air quality health index of eight, and North Okanagan going down slightly to 10.

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