Canadian smoke drifts through the Midwest

Air quality in the upper Mississippi River Valley, tainted Thursday by north winds blowing in smoke from Canadian wildfires, worsened from moderately affected in the morning to just plain unhealthy by afternoon. By 6:30 p.m. the Air Quality Index (AQI) was rated at Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups.

Midwest smoke map 06/15/2023
Midwest smoke map 06/15/2023

According to the National Weather Service (NWS) and, smoke from fires burning in Ontario — north of Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois — is forecast to cause a mix of air quality conditions into at least Saturday.

As of 4 p.m. Thursday, the AQI for northwest Illinois and eastern Iowa showed pollutants hovering between the conditions of unhealthy for those sensitive to pollution and unhealthy for anyone in the population. The Sterling Daily Gazette reported that sensitive groups include people with respiratory conditions or heart or lung disease — as well as children, teens, and seniors.

Those at risk are advised to stay indoors or at least shorten the time they are active outdoors. air quality index and smoke drift map air quality index and smoke drift map 06/15/ air quality index and smoke drift map

The New York Times reported that smoke from Canada fires is returning to smoke-weary residents of New York; it’s expected to be heaviest on Friday morning, but forecasters said the region would be spared the orange haze that settled last week, when a thick plume of smoke choked the air in New York City, delaying flights, closing schools, and sending people to hospitals with respiratory issues. The NWS said smoke had temporarily settled in the Upper Midwest, causing unhealthy levels in much of Minnesota, including the Twin Cities.

NOAA satellite image 06/15/2023

Accu-Weather reports said Canadian smoke is now settling across the Midwest; it had started to drift over Minnesota and the Dakotas earlier in the week, and by Thursday morning, wind had carried high-altitude smoke as far south as Oklahoma and east to Pennsylvania and New York. The worst smoke stretched from southern Minnesota to central Ohio, and emergency room physicians and nurses cautioned those at risk to stay indoors if possible.

“With the air quality at its current levels, we are beginning to see a slight increase in emergency rooms visits for patients suffering from respiratory issues,” said Sarah Alvarez-Brown, director of Emergency Services and Behavioral Health at CGH Medical Center in Sterling, Illinois. “On average, 20 percent of emergency visits involve respiratory issues and difficulty breathing, but over the last couple of days, we have seen this jump to 30 or 40 percent of visits. No matter your age — from infants to older adults — if you have a pre-existing respiratory condition, asthma, heart or lung disease, or you are sensitive to changes in air quality, you may want to limit your time outside or stay indoors, in an air-conditioned or air-purified environment, until the smoke and haze pass.”

Check for updates; the maps are interactive and can be zoomed or changed by zip code. Air quality levels are updated hourly.

Fire behavior in Midtown Manhattan: single tree torching

Torching Christmas tree in Manhattan
Torching Christmas tree in Manhattan, Courtesy Citizen App/WABC

A 49-year old man was taken into custody accused of setting ablaze the 50-foot Christmas tree outside Fox New’s headquarters in Midtown Manhattan early Wednesday morning.

From WABC:

Police say the 49-year-old suspect climbed up “the metal superstructure” — the tree is an artificial sculpture that is shaped to look like a tree — lit papers he brought with him on fire, and shoved the papers into the tree structure.

He then climbed down and watched from the street level as it burned, and he was spotted by building security who pointed the man out to police officers posted in nearby Rockefeller Center.

Reportedly the fire spread to some smaller decorated trees nearby, but without photographic verification, we can’t describe it as a crown fire.

Team from New York City to manage Dolan Fire on California coast

Briefing of FDNY T3 IMT
California Interagency Incident Management Team 5 briefs the incoming Type 3 IMT from the New York City Fire Department. The FDNY IMT will assume command of the Dolan Fire at 7 a.m. October 6, 2020.

A Type 3 Incident Management Team from the New York City Fire Department will assume command of the Dolan Fire on October 6. Since it started on August 18 the blaze has burned over 124,000 acres on the California coast 10 miles south of Big Sur, mostly on the Los Padres National Forest but also on private land.

Map of the Dolan Fire October 4, 2020
Map of the Dolan Fire October 4, 2020.

Below is information released by New York City.

FDNY Sends 50 of New York’s Bravest to Fight Dolan Fire in Central California
October 2, 2020

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced that the FDNY Incident Management Team (IMT), comprised of 50 members of the FDNY, will deploy to Pacific Valley Station, California, to support the containment effort for the Dolan fire that is currently devastating the Central Coast region. This is the largest-ever single FDNY IMT deployment to a wildland fire. The IMT leaves today, Friday, October 2nd, for a two-week deployment.

“New Yorkers don’t turn away from a friend in need. Our City doesn’t, either,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Our hearts go out to all those affected by Dolan already, and I’m proud to work with the State of California to provide the support it needs to keep Americans safe. We look forward to welcoming New York’s Bravest back home soon after a job well done.”

The FDNY IMT will assist with managing the operations, planning, and logistics for the containment effort, which is extremely difficult because the Dolan Fire is up against steep terrain that is inaccessible to most fire suppression efforts. FDNY IMT will use drones to locate hotspots so helicopters can extinguish the fire, supervise the strengthening of existing fire lines, and monitor the potential spread of fire into additional areas.

The team will also be supervising fire units operating across large geographic areas of the forest; tracking all resources, including Firefighting personnel and apparatus; and tracking costs related to equipment, food, and supplies, as well as possible injuries to first responders operating in the fire line area.

“FDNY members will go to any lengths – and even well beyond the borders of our city – to help those in need of our assistance,” said Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro. “When massive fires and natural disasters cause damage across the country, the men and women of our Department’s highly-trained Incident Management Team always answer the call for help. I know they will make an immediate impact in the extensive containment efforts already underway.”

A separate group of 15 members of the FDNY IMT returned home one week ago after a two-week deployment to Oregon to assist with containment and management of the Brattain Fire in the Fremont-Winema National Forest.

IMTs are trained teams of first responders responsible for overseeing large-scale long-duration incidents and emergencies, including forest fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. Following September 11th, 2001, an IMT from the United States Forest Service greatly assisted FDNY with the rescue and recovery effort at the World Trade Center site. From this experience, the FDNY IMT was created to manage incidents in New York City and across the country. The FDNY IMT has responded to multiple national emergencies, from forest fires; to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina; to Broome County, NY following Hurricane Irene; to here in New York City after Hurricane Sandy. The FDNY IMT consists of more than 300 FDNY members from all ranks in the Department with specialized training in incident command, rescue operations, logistics, and planning.

FDNY IMT logo(End of news release)

The introduction to the article was edited October 4, 2020 to correctly show the start date of the Dolan Fire as August 18, 2020.

Wildfire destroys 27 structures in Catskill Mountains

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Most of the structures were unoccupied bungalows primarily used in the summer

Above: Fire in South Fallsburg, NY. Screenshot from the video below.

A vegetation fire in South Fallsburg, New York grew to a five alarm incident that destroyed 27 structures Wednesday. The fire spread into two bungalow colonies burning seasonal buildings that were unoccupied at the time.

The fire was fought by 300 firefighters, mostly volunteers, from 39 departments in four counties. By the time they first arrived it was already moving through both colonies.

South Fallsburg is in the Catskill Mountains about 40 air miles northwest of New York City.

Mirriam-Webster defines a bungalow as “a one-storied house with a low-pitched roof; also : a house having one and a half stories and usually a front porch.” In the Catskills these homes are primarily used in the summer.

The video below reportedly shows the fire shortly after it started and began to approach the bungalows.

Below is another video shot at the scene of the fire.

Sky lanterns possible cause of fires that burned 4 homes and a boat dock

Sky lantern
Sky lantern release in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Photo by Takeaway.

Sky lanterns are being looked at as the possible cause for at least two fires over the Fourth of July holiday, one in New York and another in Michigan.

Investigators are considering sky lanterns as a possible cause for a fire that spread to four homes in Highland Park, Michigan Tuesday morning.

And in Yates County, New York, Sheriff Ron Spike, thinks a sky lantern caused a fire that burned a portion of a boat dock on Keuka Lake July 4. Boaters on the lake notified residents who were able to suppress the fire by dumping lake water onto it.

Below is an excerpt from an article at the Chronicle Express:

…Investigation by deputies and the fire chief concluded that based on debris at the scene that a sky lantern someone had launched to celebrate July 4 had landed on the dock, causing the fire. Spike says the property owner is William Goulburn, of Rochester, and the damage is over $1,000…

Sky lanterns are made with plastic or lightweight paper and are lifted into the air when burning material is ignited at the base making it lighter than air. They can travel for more than a mile, whichever way the wind blows. Sometimes the fuel is still burning when the device contacts a structure, a tree, or lands on the ground. Usually they are not retrieved and become someone else’s trash.

The dangerous devices are banned in 29 states and many counties and cities.

New York: wildfire in Sam’s Point Preserve

Above: The red and yellow dots represent the locations of heat detected at 1:50 p.m. on April 25, 2016 by a satellite over the wildfire that is burning two miles southeast of Ellenville, New York.

(UPDATED at 11:08 p.m. EDT, April 28, 2016)

This will be our last update for this wildfire southeast of Ellenville, NY unless something very unexpected occurs.


(UPDATED at 3:25 p.m. EDT April 27, 2016)

Firefighters have mapped the Sam’s Point Fire just southeast of Ellenville, New York and are now calling it 1,574 acres. It was slowed Tuesday by damp weather after being very active on Monday. Today will be sunny and drier with the relative humidity dropping to 29 percent by late afternoon. That and the 6 to 8 mph winds out of the west combined with a Haines Index of 5 could result in more fire movement this evening.

Approximately 226 personnel are assigned to the fire.

The fire is being managed by a Type 2 Incident Management Team, Kevin Slade (NYS DEC DFP) and Jim Prunoske (NYS DHSES IMT).

Sam's Point Fire,
Sam’s Point Fire, April 25, 2016. NYS DEC photo.
Sam's Point Fire,
Sam’s Point Fire, April 24, 2016. NYS DEC photo.


(UPDATED at 8:10 p.m. EDT April 26, 2016)

As of Tuesday morning the Sam’s Point Fire had burned 2,000 acres in Ulster County 21 miles west of Poughkeepsie. The fire was very active Monday afternoon with 35 to 40-foot flames rapidly chewing up an additional 1,200 acres. The fire is on land managed by Minnewaska State Park.

According to News12, fog and rain today, Tuesday, are helping firefighters.

The Ellenville, New York Fire Department apparently does not often have to deal with large vegetation fires like the one currently burning in Sam’s Point Preserve. According to the TimesHerald-Record they are asking for donations.

Anyone who has a chainsaw they do not use or need and would like to donate it, is asked to bring it to the Pioneer Fire Company, 73 Center St., in Ellenville on Tuesday. Also, the Rolling V Bus Company on Canal Street in Ellenville is doing a “Stuff the Bus” drive for the firefighters from 9 a.m. to noon on Tuesday. Items such as water, socks, toilet paper and work gloves are needed.

It is depressing that a fire department has to beg for these items.

Below, photos from Sunday and Monday:


(Originally published at 6:36 p.m. EDT April 25, 2016) 

A wildfire that has been burning since April 23 in Sam’s Point Preserve just southeast of Ellenville, New York has grown to about 800 acres. The fire in Ulster County 21 miles west of Poughkeepsie is being fought by about 110 personnel from thirteen local fire departments, the NY Department of Environmental Conservation, and NY State Parks. Two helicopters operated by the State Police have been dropping water on the blaze, 250 gallons at a time.

According to the Governor’s office, the fire is being managed by the State Incident Management Team, which integrated into the State Forest Rangers, and an a Structure Protection Group.

fire Ellenville
Fire near Ellenville, at approximately 5 p.m. April 25. Photo by Jorja Roman.

New York does is not often presented with the challenge of suppressing large wildfires. The state apparently has a unique system that, if one is to believe literally the press releases, the Governor either chooses to or is required to become involved in making management decisions about staffing the incidents. Or perhaps the Governor just likes to have his name associated with mitigating an emergency.

Last year in early May the Roosa Gap Fire in the same general area, about 5 miles south of Ellenville, burned over 2,400 acres. That was the first time in recent memory that an air tanker had been used in the state.