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.
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
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.
- Build an Emergency Kit
- Get prepared in high-risk communities
- Government of Canada – Get Prepared
- Preparing for an Emergency: A Focus on Water and Food
During a Wildfire
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.
- First Nations Health Authority – Wildfire Information
- Interior Health
- Island Health - Wildfires
- Northern Health – Current Wildfire 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.
- Caring for Seniors in Residential Care in an Emergency (HealthLinkBC File #103c)
- Community Evacuation Information for Seniors (HealthLinkBC File #103a)
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.
For information about lab services for evacuees, visit What to do if evacuated from your home.
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.
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.
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.
- BC Air Quality
- Government of Canada – Air Quality
- Particulate Matter and Outdoor Air Pollution (HealthLinkBC File #65e)
- Wildfire Smoke and Your Health
For air quality information from your health authority, click on the links below.
- Fraser Health - Air Quality
- Interior Health - Air Quality
- Island Health – Air Quality
- Northern Health – Air Quality and Your Health
- Vancouver Coastal Health – Air Quality
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.
- Kelty Mental Health – Stress Management Resources for Children, Youth and Families
- Recognizing and Resolving Trauma in Children During Disasters
- Signs of Stress
- Stress Management
- Stress in Children and Teenagers
- Stress Management: Helping Your Child With Stress
After a Wildfire
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.
- Disinfecting Drinking Water (HealthLinkBC File #49b)
- Fire Retardants: Recommended Precautions for Water and Food
- Power Outages at Food Facilities
- Water and Food Quality: Information for Evacuees Returning after a Fire
Last Reviewed: July 19, 2017