USA — Smoke from a massive forest fire in southern Virginia wafted more than 300 miles to Cecil County over the weekend, stinking up the place and prompting emergency officials to post an automated bulletin.
“It’s amazing that it traveled that far. You could really smell it,” said Amy Craybill, deputy director of the Cecil County Department of Emergency Services. “We received a number of phone calls from residents inquiring about the smell.”
So the center sent a recorded explanation to approximately 40,000 landlines, cellphones or email addresses countywide on Saturday morning via the agency’s automated system.
Prevailing winds from the south had blown smoke from a 6,000-acre fire in the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in southern Virginia into most parts of Maryland, including Cecil County, according to the message.
The smokey smell, akin to burning garbage, was expected to linger throughout Saturday, county emergency officials reported.
While the persistent odor did not pose a threat to county residents, emergency officials advised people with sensitive respiratory conditions to limit outdoor activities until the smoky stench dissipated.
“It’s just a wonderful tool,” Craybill said, referring to the automated emergency message system, which debuted last fall.
After the center sent the recorded message to more than 40,000 contacts simultaneously, the number of phone calls from concerned or curious residents dropped off noticeably, according to Craybill.