Haze from Army base
SHAMOKIN - The haze that enveloped the Shamokin area Thursday afternoon was not caused by a local blaze, but by a controlled burn in Lebanon County.
According to Coal Township Fire Chief Russ Feese, smoke lingering over Shamokin and surrounding communities came from a controlled burn at Fort Indiantown Gap. A supervisor at the Northumberland County 911 Center confirmed the report.
"They have taken responsibility for the condition," the supervisor said.
According to a post on the military installation's Facebook page, Fort Indiantown Gap was conducting prescribed burn on 800 acres Thursday, part of a series of controlled burns to reduce the risk of wildfires.
Low humidity and wind conditions enabled the haze, which became noticeable downtown around 4 p.m. Thursday, to fill the surrounding valleys. Around 6 p.m., the Columbia County 911 center said in a scanner report that heavy smoke conditions were prevalent around the county.
The smoke was noticed in Elysburg and near Southern Columbia Area High School. Most people, however, continued to go about their business on one of the first warm days of the year.
"I really didn't notice it," said a woman walking a dog near the district's garage. "I just thought because of the nice weather, some people were burning their leaves."
Initially, firefighters were called to investigate a brush fire in the Third Patch area of Bear Valley Avenue. After an investigation was found that nothing was burning, the controlled burn theory was looked into.
A March 22 press release from the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs announced prescribed burns at Fort Indiantown Gap will continue through May as a commonly used forestry management technique that reduces the amount of combustible material naturally existing in the wilderness. Controlled burns are only conducted when conditions are ideal for managing fires, the release said.
"Please note that all burns are coordinated with the appropriate state agencies and conducted as safely as possible with detailed planning and prescriptions on site," the Facebook post read.
Despite the ideal weather condition, National Weather Service meteorlogist Craig Evanego said a wind from the south blowing at about 5 to 15 miles per hour helped deliver the smoke about 30 miles, "as the crow flies," from Annville to Shamokin.
"The dry conditions today probably made it easy to start the fire, but then the wind carried the smoke directly north through Upper Dauphin, Schuylkill and into Northumberland County," Evanego said.