VICTORIA -- Greater Victoria residents woke up to smoky skies and the worst air quality conditions in the country Tuesday morning.

The smoky haze is due to shifting overnight winds that carried a blanket of smoke into the region from wildfires in eastern and central Washington state.

The Victoria-Saanich air quality health index on Tuesday morning was rated at 9, or high health risk, just before 8 a.m., according to Environment Canada

By 9 a.m., the severity was increased to 10, and then increased again to 10+, the highest possible risk.

The B.C. government is advising Victoria-Saanich residents to keep strenuous outdoor activity to a minimum, especially for children and the elderly.

Smoke Victoria

Residents on the West Shore fared somewhat better with an index of 8, still high risk, just before 9 a.m. However, that number was elevated to 10 just before 10 a.m.

Farther north on Vancouver Island, the air quality index is at 2, or low risk, in Courtenay, Comox and Nanaimo.

Hurricane-force winds and high temperatures fueled wildfires across parts of Washington and Oregon over the weekend.

Carol Connolly, a public information officer with the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center in the U.S., says the smoke is likely from the Cold Spring and Pearl Hill fire in northern Washington state, which have grown to a combined size of 155 square kilometres.

Connolly says the fires, which sprung up over the past 24 hours, are under investigation.

She says she expects the smoke to linger over parts of B.C. for at least the next few days.

Special weather statements are also in effect for much of Vancouver Island this week as higher-than-average temperatures are expected on West Vancouver Island, Inland Vancouver Island, East Vancouver Island, Greater Victoria and the Southern Gulf Islands.

An upper ridge of high pressure will draw warm air northward from the United States this week," said Environment Canada in a special weather statement Tuesday morning.

"Temperatures will peak on Wednesday and Thursday with daytime highs that are 5 to 10 degrees celsius above seasonal for this time of year. Overnight lows will also be up to 5 degrees warmer than seasonal in some areas."

The weather service advises Vancouver Islanders to drink plenty of water and schedule outdoor activities to cooler parts of the day until the heatwave passes.