The smell of smoke that some residents noticed Monday afternoon and evening was because of the western wildfires, according to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
The DEEP urged everyone in Connecticut to avoid outdoor activities Monday evening due to air quality concerns that were caused by the wildfires along the west coast of the U.S. and Canada.
“Elevated levels of fine particles (PM2.5) due to the ongoing western wildfires will be present in Connecticut this evening, and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) encourages residents to limit outdoor activities this evening,” Monday’s press release said.
The air quality was unhealthy in Hartford County Monday evening because of the ongoing western wildfires, according to Air Now, the government site that tracks the Air Quality Index across the U.S.
According to Air Now, the air quality in the Hartford region fell into the “unhealthy” category at 4 p.m. Monday.
When the air quality falls in the unhealthy category, people with heart or lung disease, older adults, children and teens should “avoid strenuous outdoor activities, keep outdoor activities short and consider moving physical activities indoors or rescheduling them,” according to Air Now and the DEEP.
WFSB Meteorologist Mark Dixon explained how the unsafe air quality was caused by the western wildfires.
“Basically, the smoke from those (wildfires) are being propelled tens of thousands of feet into the atmosphere to the point where they’re reaching the jetstream,” Dixon said. “That’s like a fast river of air that moves most times of the year from west to east. So that’s helping to transport that smoke all the way to the East Coast.”
The DEEP issued a similar press release on July 20. The poor air quality then was also caused by the western wildfires.
Unlike the last time there was an air quality alert because of the western wildfires, some residents could smell the smoke in the air. The Bristol Police and Fire Dispatch told the Herald/Press that the majority of calls they received after noon on Monday were about a strange scent, which some described as smelling like burning plastic. Firefighters were dispatched to some of those calls, but it was determined that the scent most likely came from the western wildfires.
The New Britain Fire Department said they received two similar calls on Monday.
Dixon said he was unsure why residents could smell the smoke this time.
“It’s hard to decipher, but it has to do with the wind patterns and whether the smoke reaches the ground,” Dixon said.
The AQI is the Environmental Protection Agency’s index for reporting air quality with values ranging from zero to 500. According to Air Now, the AQI reached 180 in Greater Hartford at 5 p.m. on Monday, which is on the higher end of the unhealthy categorization.
There were 85 active large fires in the U.S. on Monday, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. They have burned 1.5 million acres across 13 states.