British Columbia officials are reassuring residents that health and emergency services are ready to help people get through another heat wave this week.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says Emergency Management BC is working with communities to ensure they have funding for measures such as cooling centres with targeted support for vulnerable people and overtime wages for staff.
He’s urging people to check in with one another, especially those living alone, and notes that thousands of wildfire evacuees are particularly vulnerable during this time.
Farnworth says this summer has been a “stark reminder” of the impacts of climate change and the need to prepare for hotter weather and more difficult fire seasons.
Health Minister Adrian Dix says staff are being increased at acute-care facilities to meet expected demand during the latest heat wave, which arrives as much of B.C.’s southern Interior is plagued by poor air quality due to wildfire smoke.
Dix told a news conference on Wednesday the BC Ambulance Service is also increasing staff, and nurses at HealthLink BC are ready to handle higher call volumes through this week.
Officials made similar statements while preparing for the heat wave two weeks ago, after record-setting heat in late June was linked to at least 569 premature deaths.
B.C.’s top doctor says the latest heat wave is not expected to reach the same levels as June’s so-called heat dome, but people must be vigilant and check in on those most at risk, including seniors, children and those with chronic health conditions.
The earlier heat wave offers lessons in future community planning, says provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, adding health officials are working to assess what makes particular neighbourhoods or buildings riskier places during heat waves.
“I know with heat, smoke, wildfires and the pandemic, it’s been a lot this summer to take in,” she says.
“These are the things that affect not just our physical health, but also our emotional and mental health, too.”
Environment Canada has issued a series of warnings about hot temperatures lasting until Sunday in the Lower Mainland, Sunshine Coast, eastern Vancouver Island, inland sections of the central and north coasts and parts of the Interior.
The weather agency says a strong ridge of high pressure is expected to reach maximum strength and bring very hot temperatures on Thursday and Friday.
It’s forecasting daytime temperatures in the mid- to high 30s in the Fraser Canyon, an area that’s been hard hit by wildfires, while Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley could see highs ranging from 34 to 38 C. It calculates the humidex could make temperatures feel more like the low 40s in those areas.
Special weather statements for heat as well as air quality due to wildfire smoke stretch across the southern Interior from the South Thompson to the Kootenays.
—The Canadian Press