Alert issued after smoke from distant wildfires invades area

  • The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection issued an air quality alert Monday as residents around the region were calling local fire departments concerned over the smell of smoke and hazy skies. CONTRIBUTED GRAPHIC/Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection

  • The hills of Shelburne disappear into the haze of smoke from wildfires burning out West and in Canada as seen looking south from Route 2. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The haze of smoke from wildfires burning out West and in Canada hangs over Greenfield as seen from Poet’s Seat Tower on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Published: 7/26/2021 6:08:07 PM

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection issued an air quality alert Monday as residents around the region were calling local fire departments concerned over the smell of smoke and hazy skies.

“Mainly, the concerns that they had in this county is if it’s a local fire or a fire out West,” explained Phil Gilmore with the Franklin County Office of the Massachusetts Bureau of Forest Fire Control.

Due to the significant smoke plume from western United States and Canadian wildfires moving over the New England region, MassDEP issued an air quality alert until 11:59 p.m. Monday for all Massachusetts counties except for Plymouth, Bristol and Cape Cod and the Islands, as the air was expected to be unhealthy for sensitive groups, according to a MassDEP press release. Sensitive groups include people with heart or lung disease such as asthma, older adults, children, teenagers and people who are active outdoors. People with either lung disease or heart disease are at greater risk from exposure to particle pollution.

Orange Health Agent Matthew Fortier said the smoke is likely “not a problem for most people.”

“The problem with smoke is it’s a combination of liquids, solids and gases,” he said. “And that can have an impact on people with asthma or breathing problems.”

Strong winds have blown smoke east from wildfires in California, Oregon and Montana, according to the Associated Press. More than 60 large wildfires are burning out of control out of the U.S., including 17 in Montana and the largest — the Bootleg Fire in Southern Oregon — that had scorched 640 square miles of land as of Monday. Additionally, more than 200 fires are burning in Manitoba and Ontario, officials told the AP. Megafires, such as the Bootleg Fire, typically burn until the fall, when rain puts them out, according to the report.

Greenfield Fire Capt. Andrew Garvin and other fire officials said there’s not much they can do to combat the incoming smoke, but that they aren’t strangers to the effects of distant wildfires.

“It’s unusual, but it’s not the first time it happened,” Shelburne Fire Chief John Taylor said. “The wind usually tends to blow from west to east.”

“It’s certainly not something that’s foreign to us,” Orange Fire Chief James Young said. “I’ve seen it before, but it’s pretty rare to have it be so low where you can actually smell it. … It is here, it is noticeable and it’s settled in our area.”

While much of the smoke is aloft, some of the plume is mixing down to the surface and increasing fine particle levels. Fire departments say that concerned residents should stay vigilant within their communities.

“I think if people are concerned, it’s great to check around their neighborhood to make sure it isn’t something that originated locally,” Taylor said.

Young said that people affected should also “close windows and not circulate air.”

Officials say that while people should be alert, there isn’t much to be done preventatively by the public nor local fire departments.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com. Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.


Jobs



Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Greenfield Recorder, keeping Franklin County informed since 1792.


Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
 

 

Copyright © 2021 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy