In 2008, Lockhard worked as a consultant with B.C. Research, a private firm, to find out what might be causing respiratory illness in a Kelowna household five years after fires there destroyed nearly 250 homes.
All four people in the home were experiencing health issues since moving back to the home about two weeks after the fires ended.
“They had gone through a whole array of efforts over a five-year period,” said Lockhart. “We were able to demonstrate the particulate deposits on basically any surface we looked at. That includes floors, walls, ceilings, furnishings, clothing, you name it, and demonstrated that the chemicals were emitting from the particulate.”
The issue isn’t the microscopic smoke particles themselves but the volatile gases they emit over time, the names of which smack of an occupational health safety pamphlet – methanol, acetaldehyde, acetic acid, formic acid, methyl acetate, formaldehyde – all of which are emitted in forest fires and can trigger everything from breathing irritation to allergies to asthma.
Cleanup is possible but not easy.