Valley Burn Restrictions

FRESNO, Calif. The "check before you burn" season lasts from November to February so unfortunately, it encompasses some of the biggest family holidays. But the burn bans exist to protect families from serious illnesses.

A haze hung over downtown Fresno Thanksgiving morning.

The gray skies indicate danger from particulate matter, the tiny pollutants that can affect your lungs, your heart and your blood. And the Valley Air Pollution Control District can pinpoint where the problem starts in the winter.

"Smoke from fireplaces and wood stoves is the major wintertime pollutant that we see," said Jamie Holt, a spokesperson for the San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District. "It is the magic wand-silver bullet in helping us see improved wintertime air quality."

The district bans wood burning when particulate matter starts filling the sky, especially on days when there's not enough wind to blow the pollution out of the Valley.

During last year's four-month burn season, the district issued restrictions on 46 days in Fresno County, 37 in Kings County, 35 in Tulare County, and 32 in Merced County.

The district has a team of inspectors checking for violations, even on Thanksgiving, but they mainly rely on neighbors to turn in violators.

Action News asked several people if they'd turn in their neighbors, even on a holiday. Many said they would. "Yes, because the air quality in this valley is so bad," said Amanda Renfrow of Fresno. "My fiancé is asthmatic and any of the days the air is bad, he can't breathe."

Air district employees say they're often referred to as the Grinch who stole Thanksgiving, but health concerns trump holiday traditions.

"We understand it's Thanksgiving," said Holt. "We understand there's a tradition there, but there are a lot of traditions people can enjoy that don't impact their neighbors' health."

The district handed out more than 400 tickets during last year's entire season, but keep in mind that the burn ban doesn't apply to homes where wood is the only source of heat.

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