USA — That smoky haze in the air Monday wasn’t your neighbor’s Memorial Day barbecue gone astray or a brush fire but from forest fires hundreds of miles away. And it led to dozens of phone calls to area fire departments.
Smoke from forest fires in Quebec descended on New England, and it was particularly heavy in the late afternoon and early evening in these parts.
It wasn’t just visibility that was affected. The smoke was so thick an air quality advisory was issued by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection for the eastern part of the state. People with respiratory problems were advised to stay indoors.
Later Monday night the winds shifted and carried the plume out of the area.
An employee at the Attleboro Water Department said he found the smell so bad he had to close the windows.
Area fire departments fielded numerous phone calls throughout the day and early evening, and at times had to send out fire apparatus to check if there were fires.
Plainville public safety fielded about a dozen calls.
“We have gone out on calls all over the place to confirm it was coming from Canada,” Dispatcher Bruce Barton said. “It is a terrible smell of smoke, a smell like rubber. It would be one thing if it was just smoke.”
Barton recalled the same thing happening a few years ago when there were large fires out West sending smoke east.
Franklin Fire Department even received two 911 calls.
“The entire town is engulfed with the smell. The smell is weird,” Dispatcher DiAna Airosus said. “Everybody’s mind is being blown by the fact it is coming from Canada. They all needed to hear confirmation. They said ‘I can’t believe it.’ They keep calling it the haze.” The fact the calls were coming from all over town assured fire officials there were no local fires.
Airosus said she learned many had been away for the holiday and hadn’t heard the news about the Canadian fire.
Attleboro Fire Department received over a dozen calls, and North Attleboro reported “upwards of 20 and a lot of smoke investigations,” a dispatcher said.
Mansfield had about a dozen calls, Foxboro a handful, and Wrentham about a dozen.
“Some shoppers were inquiring” at Wrentham Village Premium Outlets, a dispatcher said.
Norfolk sent out a Reverse 911 to homes after receiving over a dozen inquiries.
“We went for about an hour and kept getting calls,” a Rehoboth dispatcher said, adding they let up when she noticed the sky cleared about 8 p.m. “It smelled like plastic burning when I first walked outside.”
A high temperature Monday of 85 degrees was recorded just before 3 p.m. by the Attleboro Water Department. That also was the high temp Sunday.
The sunny skies and hot temperatures highlighted the smoke in the air.
Glenn Field, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Taunton, said a large amount of smoke along the Massachusetts coast to Maine could take all night to clear out. Satellite images showed the cloud to be about the size of the Rhode Island.
Most of the day, the smoke carried on northwest winds had lingered along the Massachusetts coast and islands, but winds mid-afternoon pushed it into southern Rhode Island and later into eastern Massachusetts.
Quebec’s forest fire protection agency said 43 forest fires were raging across the province by early evening Monday, and while progress was being made battling the blazes, seven were considered out of control.
The fires have blackened about 350 square miles of forest in the past week. About 1,200 firefighters are battling the blazes, and about 2,000 people have been evacuated from their homes.
Smoke is also being carried over Montreal and Ottawa.
Most of the fires have been caused by lightning strikes, Quebec officials say.