Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Smoke in the sky

On Memorial Day, residents of Southeastern Massachusetts had a strong reminder of the variety of ways in which we are connected to other places. In this case, a shift in the wind meant that I learned of fires in Quebec -- several hundred miles away -- from smoke that seemed to be coming from my neighbor's yard.

The damage, health effects, and inconvenience were of course greatest in Quebec itself, where nearly 50 fires burned, at least eight of them out of control. But the smoke was visible and even irritating as far south as Cape Cod.

I have not been able to discern the cause of this particular outbreak, though I heard lightning cited as a proximate cause. Lightning-strike fires are not always "natural," however, as a history of successful fire management creates, ironically, fire-prone conditions in many forests.

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