By John Burton
A large continuously burning fire in the Pine Barrens in Southern New Jersey is causing smoke and odors that can be smelled miles away.
So far, the fire has burned through approximately 1,500 acres of the Wharton State Forest in Burlington County and continues, with the slow moving winds and low humidity as factors for the traveling smells and smoke, according to Michael Achey, assistant division forest fire warden for the state Forest Fire Service.
The odors from the blaze have been detected as far away as New York City and the outer boroughs, Achey reported.
New Jersey State climatologist David Robinson said on Monday morning the fire’s smell was quite strong in Piscataway on Rutgers University Campus.
Usually winds tend to move from west to east in much of the state, which would have blown the scent and smoke out to sea, and could be detected by people in coastal areas. But since last night and now into much of Monday the “gentle, gentle” wind is traveling south to north, rather slowly. “The smoke has gotten caught up in the general flow,” he said.
Compounding it is the continuing cloud cover. “It’s kind of keeping a cap on it,” Robinson explained.
“What we need now to get rid of the smoke is rain,” which is forecast for later today, Robinson said. Until then, “We’re going to have to live with this I’d say for most of the day.”
David Henry, Monmouth County Regional Health Commission health officer, said his office in Ocean Township hasn’t received any calls about concerns over any odors. A number of area police departments said they haven’t had gotten any calls about it, either.
“The prudent thing to do,” Henry advised, if you suffer from any repertory illnesses such as asthma, “try to stay inside until the odors dissipate.”
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