Just when you think this wildfire season can’t get worse, something new comes along to remind you this year is truly one of rare horrors.
Residents of Prince George, British Columbia—a small city 325 miles north of Vancouver—awoke to a sky seemingly devoid of sunlight. The city sits just to the east of British Columbia’s raging wildfires, which have sent smoke all the way across the Atlantic. To get there, the smoke has to pass over Prince George. Freaky orange skies have been the norm as a result, but the smoke became so thick on Friday that it turned the morning sky inky black well after sunrise.
Residents turned their headlights on for the morning commute as the halogen glow of streetlights continued to illuminate the road. Even for a town that has been blanketed in smoke for more than a week, the scene was a first of its kind. In my years of covering climate change and the wildfires that accompany it, I can’t recall seeing anything quite like it myself.
While conditions cleared up a bit by mid-morning, air quality remains off-the-charts bad, according to ratings from British Columbia’s government. Local journalist Nicole Oud tweeted that you “can feel the smoke and ash the second you step outside.”
Other cities in the area are also dealing with high levels of pollution, which can cause respiratory problems even for healthy adults.
The vast majority of the province continues to face high or extreme wildfire risk due to hot, dry conditions that have plagued much of the West Coast for the past month. Fires have burned nearly 1.1 million acres in British Columbia for the year-to-date, basically tripling the annual average. The ratio is likely to only become more lopsided with 10 new fires that lit on Thursday in addition to the 500 burning. That means it’s also possible the sunrise could again go up in smoke.