September 14th, 2011

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes--

Yesterday, the 13th, I came out of work to find that, during the afternoon, a vast cloud of smoke from a Minnesota wildfire had settled over most of Wisconsin. The sky was clear and bright, but hazy, and had a bitter, hot smell. I was surprised by how bad it smelt. I know that building fires always smell bad--and are bad for you--because not only wood is on fire, but also paint, insulation, wiring, roofing, upholstery and carpets, and other things not meant to be burned that out-gas a lot of nasty chemicals. I'd always imagined that a forest fire would smell like a campfire writ large--after all, it's dry limbs, tinder, brush and some green wood mostly burning, isn't it?

Instead, the smoke that got this far had a heavy, oily component, almost like the creosote odor one gets when burning railroad ties, but without the more volatile components. Areas north of here, like Rhinelander, WI, reported reduced visibility and notable falls of ash. I don't know what the heck has been growing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Northeastern Minnesota, but I'm glad we weren't closer to it.

The air quality was much better this morning, and the alert was expected to end by 11:00AM our time.

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