You Smelled New Jersey Burning, Not Your Neighbor’s House

Pine Barrens Fire
Photo: Gilitukha/iStock/Thinkstock

Various Hamptons police and fire departments fielded calls from worried locals reporting possible fires near their houses early Tuesday morning, but it turns out the the smoke’s source wasn’t so close to home. The bonfire-like scent of burning wood and light haze of smoke, which could be seen in Water Mill by shining a flashlight into the darkness, were actually the result of a massive fire that erupted in the New Jersey Pine Barrens on Monday.

According to Philidelphia’s ABC Action News, the fire started in Woodland Township, in Burlington County, NJ and then spread in Ocean County, burning some 1,000 acres of the heavily forested area overnight. The blaze, which was mostly contained by 11 a.m. Tuesday, did not damage any homes and no properties are in the remaining fire’s path.

But the smoke did disturb many Hamptonites on the eve of Tumbleweed Tuesday—the first day of post-summer life on the South Fork. A call to Southampton Town Police at 4 a.m. Tuesday revealed that they had received “multiple calls” from concerned residents, who were surely confused by the smoke smell and light haze—checking grills, cars, air conditioning units, inspecting all four corners of their homes and looking at neighboring homes, fields and woods for signs of a fire.

The East Hampton Star reported this morning that 911 calls were placed from as far east as Montauk. The first call in Montauk was placed at 2 a.m. and, The Star reports, two calls were placed to the Springs Fire Department around 4:15 a.m., Amagansett Fire Department received a call a little before 6 a.m. and East Hampton received calls around the same time. The Bridgehampton Fire Department actually responded to a call about the smoke smell on Daniel’s Lane in Sagaponack at 4 a.m., but that, too, was just the smell of Jersey blowing northeast across the New York/New Jersey Bight.

Once fully contained, the New Jersey brush fire is expected to burn no more than about 1,000 acres of Pine Barrens land.

A similar fire burned 5,000 acres of Long Island’s Pine Barrens in August 1995. The massive “Sunrise Fire” was the result of dangerously dry pine and scrub oak, and it produced flames 50–200-feet high along the Sunrise Highway in Suffolk County. The area has completely recovered since that disaster.

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