Posted by: Kate | August 5, 2010

Smoke, Thankfully No Fire.

BC is a really big place. The province takes a long day to drive across, and has a few mountain ranges along the way. In the middle of the province, running quite a way north and south, there are currently many, many forest fires burning. It is scary, and frustrating when it is human-caused, and a reminder of nature’s power.

I live on a big island off the coast of BC. We consider the mainland to be “over there” and the interior of the province is like another world to us. (As an aside that will be understood by Canadians or anyone who has driven across Canada, someone from Manitoba once told me they were a westerner. Showed me how big this country was, I who thought anything past Kelowna was ‘the east’.) Back to our island. My section of the island, the central area, is across the water from a crazy mess of mainland mountains. There are no roads to the lower mainland from that area, it is simply forbidding rock and valley and wilderness.

Last night we noticed that the sun was very red, and the mountains here on the island were looking a little hazy out our window. Today we were inundated with the oddest haze. By late afternoon we realized this was no heat haze. This is smoke.

You’d think the fire was down the road, or in the nearby mountain forests. It is not. This smoke is from the accumulation of the 400 fires burning around the province, blowing across the coastal mountains, across the Strait of Georgia, and onto our island.

It tastes like smoke, feels in your eyes like smoke. It is hard to believe this is coming from hundreds of miles away. We may stay indoors more tomorrow as this is supposed to continue. It makes the day (which would other wise be another sunny summer day) hotter and muggier and more uncomfortable. As Bush Boy said, “This is a true greenhouse effect.” It makes you worry about the intense dryness that is our island right now.

That little bright dot is the sun at 7 pm. What you can’t see in this picture, because the exposure is all wrong, is the eerie redness of the ball of sun. You also can’t feel the strange, intense heat it carries.

I can only imagine what it must be like to be closer to the fire zones, or to be fighting those fires. The smoke is supposed to lift on the island after tomorrow, as our weather systems change up. But that doesn’t mean the fires go away. Let’s hope for a safe conclusion to this fire season.



  1. I had to fly to Prince George last week for an unexpected trip…my flight from Vancouver to PG was at 10:30 at night so obviously dark. In the 48 minutes it took to get there, I counted 14 fires from my side of the plane…and the moon changed from a brilliant white ball to a fiery ball of red. Fire season has begun in the west for sure. It always amazes me how much that smoke travels as well…it’s been quite hazy here lately and while I don’t know where in the state is burning, I know it is. Here’s hoping we get some August rain (minus the thunderstorms!)!

  2. I was all set to call the fire department yesterday as when I walked up our road I felt sure the fire must be nearby. I decided to check the internet first (thank goodness – I’m sure they don’t need unnecessary calls) and found out it was fires on the mainland causing the haze. It really does make you think how awful it must be fighting these fires. I really wouldn’t mind some rain, but please not when I have visitors next week!

  3. Thx for the great story, Kate. We, in Kelowna, have had continuous haze, it smells like smoke, the heat & humidity makes us sticky & lazy. Last weekend, DH & I were at a nearby park, when we saw the v beginning of a wildfire. I was hugely impressed at how quickly the air bomber and helicopters arrived, throwing fire retardant and water bombs on the fire. It great to 10 acres in minutes. Fire retardant was poured down to form a fire guard. After several hours, the firefighters got the fire out! Impressive. It amazes me how quickly a fire can spread.

    Each morning I look at the mountains to make sure there are no new fires. Let us all keep the firefighters & folks who live near the fires in our prayers. Rain is forecast for the next few days, and please, no lightning!

    Bush boy is so right – it really is like living in a greenouse. Stay safe!

    • Editing for typo – instead of: It great to 10 acres in minutes.
      It should read ‘grew’.

  4. You summed up exactly what I was thinking yesterday…..I tried to capture the sun’s intense colour yesterday but just couldn’t. I mentioned to my husband that there was almost an eery hush that seemed to suuround us.

  5. i will echo your hopes for a safe and quick end to the fire season.
    your post reminded me of one summer when we were living in montana, the haze and smoke were awful, and all the cars, mailboxes, etc… were continually covered in a light layer of ash! very eery. hopefully for your sake at least your weather will shift soon.

  6. you are right, the light was so strange with the smoke these last couple days, and the heat oppressive. glad that the smoke seems to have moved on a bit and hopefully some rain tonight for our parched hills so we don’t get any fires of our own on the island!

  7. I enjoyed your description of ‘Westerner’, being a ‘despised’ Albertan myself. :) I just spent a weekend in Sicamous for a family reunion, many of whom are from the coast. My family is originally from Salmon Arm, so I consider myself an ‘honorary’ British Columbian, but a suggestion of the next reunion being held east of the Rockies was met with blank stares…Why???

    I didn’t realize the island was inundated as well, I understood that Vancouver was fairly smoke free. We traveled under a blanket the whole way with welcome relief in the Okanagan. It sure made the familiar scenery of the journey a whole new adventure.

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