Where’s That Smoke Coming From?

prescribed burn
Prescribed burns are common this time of year in the mountains north of Phoenix. Photo: AzEIN

If you smelled smoke this morning or on a recent evening in the North Valley, you’re not alone.

“I’ve heard people commenting on it over the last week, and I suspect it’s from a controlled burn” or multiple controlled burns, said Paul Schickel, spokesperson for the Daisy Mountain Fire Department. “Depending on weather patterns we could see varying amounts of smoke here in the Valley.”

For example, smoke from a prescribed, controlled burn north of Munds Park near Flagstaff was expected to drift well southward yesterday into the Sedona area and other communities, according to the Arizona Emergency Information Network, though it’s not clear how far south it might have reached.


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Sometimes the source is much closer.

“The smell of a backyard fire can carry a long distance, especially in cool air that holds the smoke close to the ground,” Schickel said.

So how does DMFD know when to worry?

“As firefighters, we’ve acquired a sense of smell that can usually discern the different materials that are being burned,” Schickel said. “For instance, a trash fire smells different than a structure fire, which smells different than a wood burning fire.”

Prescribed fires are used to restore fire-adapted ecosystems, according to the National Forest Service. “These burns will mimic natural fires by reducing hazardous fuels accumulations, and reintroduce fire into a fire dependent system; recycling nutrients and increasing habitat diversity,” the service said in a statement.

Another prescribed burn is scheduled to start Saturday, Oct. 28, to burn five acres of debris in the Prescott Basin.

Robert Roy Britt

NoPho resident Robert Roy Britt has written for In&Out publications since its inception in 2005. Britt began his journalism career in New Jersey newspapers in the early 1990s. He later became a science writer and was editor-in-chief of the online media sites Space.com and Live Science. He has written four novels.


Robert Roy Britt on Email

Robert Roy Britt

NoPho resident Robert Roy Britt has written for In&Out publications since its inception in 2005. Britt began his journalism career in New Jersey newspapers in the early 1990s. He later became a science writer and was editor-in-chief of the online media sites Space.com and Live Science. He has written four novels.

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