VICTORIA — The British Columbia Coroners Service is reporting 16 suspected heat-related deaths in late July and early August, coinciding with heat warnings over much of the province during the same period.
A report from the service on deaths says the fatalities happened between July 26 and Aug. 3, although the numbers are considered preliminary until investigations into each case conclude.
The report shows all but two of the deaths happened in the Interior or Fraser health regions and involved victims aged 40 to over 90, with six in their 70s.
The fatalities came as local and provincial agencies implemented hot weather protocols developed after 619 people died during last year's heat emergency in late June.
The 2021 emergency happened as record heat baked the province for days, peaking with the highest-ever temperature in Canada at 49.6 C in Lytton the day before the village was destroyed by a wildfire.
The hot spell linked to the most recent deaths did not warrant the declaration of an extreme heat emergency, but the province began rolling out its new heat response system because temperatures were high during the day with little relief at night, potentially putting people at risk.
The heat response system and B.C.'s Extreme Heat Preparedness Guide were created after last year's heat deaths to help families and communities prepare for heat emergencies.
The programs dovetailed with the June 7 release of a coroners service death-panel report that detailed who is most at risk from heat events and where those risks are greatest.
That report found most of the victims of the 2021 heat dome were elderly or vulnerable people living alone in buildings without air conditioning. Ninety-eight per cent of the victims died indoors and most lived in socially or materially deprived conditions.
The latest report on the 16 deaths shows half of them occurred in the Fraser Health Authority, which includes the Fraser Valley and Fraser Canyon, while six were in the Interior Health Authority, covering the Okanagan and southern Interior.
Environment Canada records show dozens of new daily maximum temperature records were set in the Fraser Canyon, southern Interior and Okanagan between July 26 to Aug. 3 as temperatures ranged from the high 30s to mid-40s.
The Vancouver Coastal and Island health authorities each recorded a single death over the same period, the study says, and the weather office reported numerous record daily temperatures in cities and towns throughout those regions.
The coroner's examination of the 2021 heat-dome deaths included recommendations to ensure vulnerable people are identified and supported during heat emergencies, either by helping them to stay cool in their homes or taking them to cooling facilities at community centres or other public places.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 10, 2022.
The Canadian Press