Wildfires and Your Health

Every year in British Columbia there are hundreds, sometimes thousands, of wildfires (also called forest fires). Wildfires can affect your health and safety in a number of ways: the smoke from wildfires can affect the quality of the air, a power outage may spoil your food, or you may be required to evacuate if a wildfire is close to your home.

Learn what you can do to before an emergency or disaster such as a wildfire, and what you can to do stay safe and healthy during and after a wildfire in your area.

If you are visiting British Columbia, please visit Info for travelers & tourists in B.C. for information concerning fire safety and management.

Before a Wildfire

Emergency Preparedness

During wildfire season roads may be closed, you may be cut off from certain supplies and services, or your community may be evacuated. Learn what you can do to prepare for an emergency and stay safe in advance of a potential evacuation alert or order.

During a Wildfire

Wildfires

For information about wildfires in B.C., including a map of active wildfires and information from your health authority, click on the links below.

For information about wildfires from your health authority, where available, click on the links below.

Evacuation Information

All evacuees are asked to register with the Canadian Red Cross, even if aid is not required. To register, visit Canadian Red Cross or call 1 800 863-6582.

If there is a wildfire in or near your community, you may be evacuated to a safer area. There are a number of resources and supports available to evacuees. Learn what to do if you are evacuated from your home and how to find support in your area.

Seniors may need special support in the event of an evacuation. Learn what you can do to be prepared.

Health Care for Evacuees

For non-emergency health information or advice, call 8-1-1 to speak with a health services navigator who can help you find the information you are looking for or connect you with a registered nurse, registered dietitian, qualified exercise professional, or a pharmacist.

Hospital Patient Relocation
For information on the whereabouts of Interior Health hospital patients relocated due to fires, call 1-877-442-2001.

Lab Services
For information about lab services for evacuees, visit What to do if evacuated from your home.

Prescription Medications
During a state of emergency, pharmacists are able to provide a drug without a prescription to ensure the health and safety of the public. For more information visit the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia – Providing Continuity of Care for Patients during a State of Emergency.

Walk-in Clinics
To find a walk-in clinic in your area, search the FIND Services and Resources Directory or call 8-1-1 to speak with a health services navigator any time of the day, every day of the year.

Air Quality

If there is an air quality advisory in your area, and you experience difficulty breathing or you are wheezing, seek medical attention right away.

Poor air quality can be harmful to your health, especially for children, older adults, and those with heart and lung conditions. For more information about air quality, including current air quality advisories, click on the links below.

For air quality information from your health authority, click on the links below.

Staying Cool Indoors during an Air Quality Advisory

Please note that when there is an air quality advisory in your area, officials may recommend that you keep your windows closed with the air conditioner on (if you have one), or they may advise you to keep your windows closed with the air conditioner off. When your windows are closed and the air conditioner is off (or you don’t have one), you will need to take special care to stay cool. Make sure to stay up to date on the specific recommendations for your area. Visit BC Air Quality - Advisories for current information.

Here are some tips for how to keep your home and your family cool indoors when the temperature is hot outside and there is an air quality advisory. Make sure to follow the recommendations of the current advisory and pick the tips that work for your home.

  • Keep the windows and blinds closed while the sun is up.
  • Install an air conditioner (recommended with a health efficiency particulate air filter). Make sure that it recirculates air from inside your home only and that the filters are clean. Please note that during some air quality advisories it may be recommended that you turn your air conditioner off.
  • Drink plenty of cool, non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Place a bowl of ice in front of a fan to create a cool breeze.
  • Avoiding smoking or burning materials inside your home.
  • Avoid using the oven and instead cook on the stovetop or BBQ outdoors.
  • Do any physical activity in the cooler morning or evening hours.
  • Spend time in the cooler rooms of your home, like a basement.
  • Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Take a cool shower or bath.
  • Avoid getting a sunburn when out in the sun.

Dealing with Stress and Trauma

Disasters, such as wildfires, can impact your emotional health as much as your physical health. Learn what you can do to recognize signs of stress or trauma in yourself and your family. 

After a Wildfire

Returning Home

When your local or First Nations government has declared it is safe for you to return home, there are steps you can take to make the transition easier and safer.

Food Safety and Water Quality

If there is a wildfire in your area, your community may temporarily lose power, or fire retardants may be used in or near your community to reduce the size and lessen the impact of the fires. Learn what precautions should be taken for water supplies and food affected by fire retardants or power outages.

Last Reviewed: July 19, 2017

Is it an emergency?

If you or someone in your care has chest pains, difficulty breathing, or severe bleeding, it could be a life-threatening emergency. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately.
If you are concerned about a possible poisoning or exposure to a toxic substance, call Poison Control now at 1-800-567-8911.

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