A nose-pinching smokey smell has drifted over most of New York City as haze from a nearby New Jersey forest fire inches its way into the metropolis, however authorities have said the emanating smoke is not a major risk, as long as those with respiratory issues remain cautious. The disturbance originated from a forest fire in Wharton State Forest in southern New Jersey, some 90 miles away. An unusual weather pattern trapped the smoke that otherwise would not have created such havoc.
The smoke and smell appear to be the strongest in Brooklyn and Staten Island, but reports of its distraction have been coming in from all over the city, including the Upper East Side, Coney Island, Sheepshead Bay, and Forrest Hills. Worries of the fire causing the smoke have alarmed residents, including Jeremy Floto from Crown Heights, Brooklyn: “It was so thick, I thought the house on the corner was on fire.”
An advisory from the EPA puts New York City, regions of New Jersey, and the lower Hudson Valley into a severe air quality category, the fourth-most critical rating on the agency’s six-step scale. This is the first time New York City’s air quality has registered below “good” or “moderate.” The rating is a cautionary alarm to citizens of the city that the smoke from the forest fire in New Jersey layering the area is only a major risk if altered behavior is not implemented.
Smoke from the brush fire has alarmed many citizens and authorities have warned it may create breathing difficulties. The EPA has issued an air quality action day for the remainder of Monday, and has sent out an advisory for residents to predominantly stay indoors and limit heavy and prolonged exertion. This warning was issued especially for vulnerable groups, such as children and those suffering from lung and heart disease and other respiratory complications.
Due to an atmospheric inversion, instead of temperatures in the area dropping at a higher altitude, the temperatures increased, creating a buffer which trapped the smoke over the region. Inversions also lead to layers of smog, which also may result in potentially adverse health issues.
Meteorologist from the National Weather Service, Tim Morrin, said, “It was remarkable that the fire continued to burn overnight and kept putting out smoke. Normally, the humidity would have put it out.”
The fire was first spotted Sunday afternoon around 3:30 p.m., and it generated billowing smoke that could be seen for miles. By early Monday morning, about 50 percent of the 1,500 acre brush fire affecting the New Jersey woodland forest was contained and 30 percent controlled, but what initiated the flare up is still being investigated. Firefighters contain and control the forest fire by dropping water from airplanes and by using backfires.
Morris County Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator Keith Heimburg concurred that the hazey layering is a result of the nature of the weather inversion, the chill in the air Monday morning keeping the smoke at a low level. He also added, “The fire is in a big remote area which is why it’s taking a long time to control, but it’s nothing to worry about.”
There have been no reported injuries, nor have any buildings been affected by the blaze, although some nearby airports reported visibility problems.
Authorities predict a rainstorm will be moving into the area near mid-afternoon which should help disperse the layers of smoke and extinguish the proliferating odors. The fire is expected to be contained in entirety early Monday evening. The smoke and smell layering parts of New York and New Jersey are not consider a major risk as long as residents remain cautious of those with health concerns.
By Stacy Feder