Smell of Smoke From New Jersey Brush Fire Reaches South Fork

The smell of smoke wafted through the air on the South Fork early Tuesday morning, traveling about 150 miles from the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, where a massive brush fire had broken out on Monday night. 

Fire department chiefs and captains from Southampton to Montauk got early wake-up calls when residents called 911 about the smell of smoke.

"The smell of smoke filled the air in most of Springs," said Steve Scholl, the first assistant chief of the Springs Fire Department, which received two calls about it around 4:15 a.m. Later, when he left for work, "I smelled it all the way to Montauk this morning — was pretty much gone once the sun came up," he said. 

More than 1,000 acres of the Brendan T. Byrne State Forest along Route 72 in Woodland Township in Burlington County were involved in the blaze, which later spread to Ocean County. No houses were in the fire's path, but only about half of the fire had been contained on Tuesday morning. 

The first report of an odor arriving on the South Fork began in Montauk at about 2 a.m. on Old Montauk Highway, according to Chief Joe Lenahan, who then got a second call at about 5 a.m. He smelled "a brush fire smell" near Glenmore Avenue. 

Southampton Chief Mike Kampf said "our entire village smelled like a big bonfire," which he noticed after he got up for a call in the area of South Main Street around 3:40 a.m. There was also a strong smell in Water Mill. "When I got down towards the water there was a bit of a haze. I have seen this once before when the winds were just right," he said.

There was a strong southwest wind this morning helping to carry the aroma from the New Jersey blaze to the South Fork of Long Island. According to chatter on the emergency radio frequencies early Tuesday morning, departments east of Center Moriches also received similar reports.

The Amagansett Fire Department received a call from a resident of Wolf Way off Red Dirt Road just before 6 a.m. "I could smell it as soon as I opened my front door on Neck Path," Chief Allen Bennett said, adding that it was a strong smell, almost as if plastic were burning. He checked the area and spoke to the resident who placed the call. 

In East Hampton, the smell was reported at around 5 a.m. from Further Lane and Stephen Hand's Path, between Route 114 and Montauk Highway, East Hampton Fire Chief Richard Osterberg Jr. said. He could smell it from his house, as well, and was already aware of what was happening in other districts, "so I canceled all smell-of-smoke calls until 7 a.m.," he said. On his way to Bridgehampton at around 5:30 a.m., he could still smell the odor. 

About an hour earlier, at 4 a.m., the Bridgehampton Fire Department was dispatched to Daniel's Lane in Sagaponack. Responding chiefs reported smelling smoke on the north side of Sagaponack and on the north side of the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike. They also found no fire. 

The wind direction seemed to have caused the smell to miss the Sag Harbor Fire District, according to Chief Tom Gardella, who said no calls were received. However, the department did respond to a  fire at the American Hotel around midnight Monday. A small blaze broke out in the landry room of the Main Street hotel and restaurant, but the sprinkler system extinguished most of it. The fire marshal was called to investigate the cause.