British Columbia's coroner has issued a public safety bulletin about wildfire smoke, saying the death of a nine-year-old boy had been "confirmed by his parents" to have been related to a medical condition aggravated by the smoke.

The service says the "sudden and unexpected" death of Carter Vigh of 100 Mile House is a heartbreaking loss for his family and the community, and an investigation is underway.

The boy's aunt, Anamaria Vigh, said on Facebook that he died from asthma last week in hospital.

There are more than 370 wildfires burning in B.C. and air-quality alerts due to wildfire smoke cover a large section of the province.

The BC Coroners Service says in a statement that as the province experiences greater impacts from the effects of climate change, residents are learning more about the risks associated with wildfire smoke, extreme heat and other environmental factors.

The statement says residents can protect themselves from the smoke by staying indoors, keeping windows closed, using air cleaners with high-efficiency particulate filtration, and visiting places with controlled air supply such as malls and libraries.

Anamaria Vigh has started a GoFundMe page for her nephew's family, with the site raising about $30,000 since launching five days ago.

Carter Vigh's mother, Amber Vigh, said in a statement on Facebook she hopes to raise awareness about the seriousness of asthma.

"We want people to know how quickly things can change," she said in the statement, adding that her son's death came despite the family being diligent about his care, keeping watch of the boy's condition closely and having a puffer ready.

BC Coroner issues safety alert over wildfire smoke after child's death. #BCWildfires #Wildfires #WildfireSmoke #AirQuality

"Yesterday we had to say our final goodbyes to you," she wrote in another post Saturday addressed to her son. "My perfect baby boy, laying on that bed. I truly don’t know how we can ever possibly heal from this!"

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth called Carter Vigh's death "a terrible, terrible tragedy" and "every parent's worst nightmare."

Farnworth said the province wants to wait until the coroner's report after a full investigation to see if any changes could be made to address the incident, but it is imperative that residents follow public health advisories about air quality throughout B.C.

"It is monitored on a daily basis and I think people need to pay attention to that," he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 17, 2023.

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