Three years ago today, while driving the backroads north of Truckee, CA, I came across this old wigwam burner located in the small town of Sattley (Google Street View). These burners were used to burn sawmill and logging yard wastes until they were decommissioned during the 1970s to early 1980s — at the latest — due to both economic and environmental concerns (including the Clean Air Act of 1970).
I remember seeing a lot of these burners while traveling in Oregon and California (especially Oregon) during my younger years, and so I associate them with my childhood. For some unknown reason, I have also come to associate the burners with the sickly smell of paper mills, even though sawmills and paper mills didn't (usually?) occur in the same locations.
The stench of a paper mill — a strangely fond olfactory memory of sorts, because paper mills remind me of my grandparents' old house — is nearly indescribable: it is strong and penetrating, sharp to the nose, sometimes intolerably so if the wind is in the wrong direction or if the air is just hanging and not moving. I've heard some say that the thick smoke smells like rotten egg, a typical sulfur smell, which would make sense because one of the key ingredients of the output of paper mills is hydrogen sulfide, one of several TRS compounds (TRS = total reduced sulfur). In my memory, the smell is something stronger or sharper or sicklier than that of rotten eggs, and some have mentioned rotten cabbage or rotten broccoli (eew!).
This compilation shows that zero sawmills are located in Oregon at present.
A Few Relevant Links:
Wigwam Burners / TeePee Burners on Flickr
List of remaining burners in the U.S.
Odors from Paper Mills
Pulp and Paper Industry Odors
Total Reduced Sulfides
Total Reduced Sulphur Compounds
That reeking paper mill keeps Franklin running