Air quality

The Regional Air Quality Program is a joint initiative between the City of Kelowna, City of West Kelowna, Westbank First Nation, the Regional District of Central Okanagan (RDCO), District of Peachland and District of Lake Country.  

Aligning with B.C. government initiatives, the program aims to protect and improve air quality in the Central Okanagan through education, awareness and pollution prevention. For complete information about the Air Quality Program, visit regionaldistrict.com/air quality or contact the Regional Air Quality Coordinator at 250-469-8408 or airquality@kelowna.ca.

Report air quality concerns

Residential
For residential smoke (indoor appliances) and local air quality concerns, please submit a request online.

Outdoor Burning
For outdoor wood burning please visit Outdoor Burning

Industrial
For industrial-related concerns about air quality in the Central Okanagan, please contact the Ministry of Environment: EnvironmentalComplaints@gov.bc.ca or call the 24-hour RAPP (Report All Poachers and Polluters) tip-line: 1-877-952-7277.

The Ministry of Environment’s reactive team collects information from all the received complaints and that data is used to support planned inspections. Any evidence of ash or smoke leaving the property would be used to strengthen a complaint. If you are including photos with your complaint, be sure the sun is at your back when the picture is taken.

Current air quality conditions

The current Central Okanagan  Air Quality Health Index (AQHI)  identifies the health risk associated with local air quality conditions. The Index corresponds to the recommendations (below) for outdoor activities for those at risk and the general population.

Source- BC Centre for Disease Control

People with heart and breathing problems are at greatest risk. Follow your doctor’s usual advice about exercising and managing your condition.

What to do when a smoky skies advisory is in place

There are no active Air Quality advisories for the Central Okanagan region. Please check current BC Air Quality Advisories. 

When an Air Quality advisory is  in place for the Central Okanagan, please check the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) frequently as conditions can change within hours. Smoke concentrations will vary widely as winds, fire behaviour and temperatures change. Check the BC Wildfire Dashboard Map and  Smoke Forecasts to look for active wildfires and how smoke could affect our region in the next 48hrs. 

If you are planning a trip within BC, check the BC Air Quality website prior to your trip and during your stay to verify air quality conditions and learn how to protect your health. 

Precautions when the smoke levels are high
  • The most important thing is to reduce your exposure.
  • Refrain from exercising outdoors.
  • Stay indoors as much as possible and try to keep your indoor environment smoke-free. Keep doors, windows and fireplace dampers shut. Reduce fresh air uptake into homes/offices.
  • Avoid smoking cigarettes, burning candles or incense, using wood stoves, and vacuuming during smoky periods (each of these causes unhealthy particulates to circulate in your indoor air).
  • Buildings such as shopping malls, community centres and libraries also tend to have better indoor air quality because they have larger air filtration systems. 
  • Create a little clean-air shelter in your home by using a portable HEPA air cleaner.
  • Use air conditioners on the recirculation setting so outside air will not be moved inside.
  • Drinking lots of water can help reduce inflammation and people should try to take it easy. The harder you’re breathing, the more smoke you’re inhaling.
  • Take extra precaution with children, who are more susceptible to smoke because their breathing systems are still developing and they breathe in more air (and therefore more smoke) than adults.
  • Older adults are more likely to have heart or lung disease, which can make them more susceptible to smoke. Extra precaution should also be taken during forest fire season.
  • Masks are an important tool for people who have to work outdoors, but it needs to be an N95 respirator properly fit-tested by a professional – paper surgical or dust masks do not offer any protection.
  • If you're driving, check road and weather conditions, as well as Wildfire Highway Closures.  Keep your windows and vents closed while driving. Only use air conditioning in the “recirculate” setting.
When to consider canceling an outdoor event

If you are responsible for children or organizing an outdoor event (such as coaches, teachers, daycares, and sports clubs), you will need to use your discretion to decide whether outdoor activities should go ahead as planned, or whether they should be postponed or cancelled. As smoke conditions may change within hours, you should frequently check Central Okanagan Current Air Quality Conditions and Smoke Forecasts to make an informed decision.

While there is no formal provincial guideline in place, some regions consider canceling events when outdoor PM2.5 concentrations are above 80.5 μm/m3 or when the Air Quality Health Index is a level 9 or higher.

Create cleaner air at home

Although we can't get rid of the smoke outdoors, there are a number of options for limiting exposure to harmful, smoky air.

Install a HEPA Filtration Unit 
HEPA air filtration units, also known as air purifiers, are portable appliances that filter out really tiny particulate matter (PM) - 2.5 microns and smaller. These ultrafine particles are the most common and dangerous component of wildfire smoke. HEPA air filtration units typically come with replaceable carbon pre-filters that also remove the Volatile Organic Compounds in wildfire smoke, such as benzene, acrolein, and formeldehyde. Pre-filters take care of larger particles such as pollen, too.  And one more bonus: because the units blow out filtered air, they double as fans!

Portable filtration units use small HEPA filters and plug into a standard wall outlet in your home. HEPA air filters work best when all windows and outside doors are closed. 

Room size
Buy the right air filtration unit to fit the room where you'll use it most frequently, such as the bedroom. Most units list the size of room they can filter effectively. Others list a Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR), in which case, choose a tobacco smoke CADR that covers at least two thirds of the room’s area. For example, a 10’ x 12’ room (120 square feet) would require an air cleaner with a tobacco smoke CADR of at least 80. If you buy a portable air cleaner, follow the manufacturer’s specifications to choose the right size for the room you will use it in. 

If you have a central heating and cooling system,  the filters that can provide effective protection from wildfire smoke are the MERV 13 up to HEPA.

Be sure to have filter replacements available. During prolonged smoke events the filter's efficiency could be affected.