Friday, June 4, 2010
Air quality alert on Memorial Day
Smoke from forest fires in Quebec spread south to eastern Massachusetts causing the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to declare an “air quality action day” on Memorial Day, May 31. “Persons with heart or lung disease, older adults and children should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion. Everyone else should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion,” stated the DEP.
Carlisle residents woke on Monday to find a light haze filtering the sun and a burning smell, similar to a brush fire. The National Weather Service expected the thickest smoke would be pushed south through eastern Massachusetts to Nantucket and Cape Cod, where visibility at the Chatham airport was reduced to two miles.
Carlisle Fire Chief David Flannery reported that calls were received about the odor of smoke. “I heard on the fire radio that Acton, Concord, Westford and Billerica were going out on the same sort of calls at the same time.” He said he was already aware that the winds would be bringing smoke to the area. “I talked with the dispatcher to confirm this and advised him to let people know. Later in the day the Massachusetts Fire Marshal sent out an email to all fire chiefs.” Flannery noted that “a public notification network would have worked very well in this instance,” allowing him to warn residents about the air quality alert.
An “air quality action day” is issued when “fine particulates concentrations within the region may approach or exceed unhealthy standards,” according to the DEP.
Hot, windy conditions in the Canadian province were feeding approximately 52 fires burning in central Quebec. Smoke also affected New Hampshire, Maine, and all of eastern Canada, including Nova Scotia. The weather service expected the smoke would eventually be blown out to sea. ∆
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