N.J. environmental officials warn of hazardous haze lingering from Burlington County wildfires

N.J. environmental officials warn of hazardous haze lingering from Burlington County wildfires

08 July 2010

published by www.nj.com

USA — That haze drifting over central portions of New Jersey may be hazardous to human health, state environmental officials said today, warning people with respiratory problems that smoke from Burlington County wildfires is lingering in the air.

Fires that continue to smolder around Fort Dix in northern Burlington County are causing smoke to drift through a large swatch of the state, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection. The stench of the smoke has already been reported as far west as Bucks County, PA.

People with respiratory ailments and especially the elderly are being warned that, even if they do not see a smoke cloud, they should remain indoors if they smell the acrid sent of wildfires because the bad air is hazardous although it may only appear as a summer haze. Relatively cooler and moist air is keeping the smoke closer to the ground level than normal and winds already sent the polluted air over the Trenton area this morning, according to the DEP.

Shifting winds are expected to send it further north by tomorrow into Middlesex and Monmouth counties.

“The Fort Dix fires are burning into organic materials in swampy areas that have dried out as a result of our lack of rainfall. These areas are burning slowly, a lot like charcoal in a grill,” said New Jersey State Forest Fire Service Chief Maris Gabliks in a prepared statement. “At the same time, we are continuing to see flare-ups of fires of previously unburned stands of trees within the wildfire-containment area.”

About 3,000 acres have been burned by wildfires around Fort Dix, where military base firefighters and the New Jersey Forest Fire Service have contained the blazes. But the organic material will keep burning, according to the DEP, until the area receives some major rainfall, which could arrive by Saturday.

The DEP said pollution levels from the smoke are dropping today, but are likely to spike tonight and tomorrow.

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