Burn restrictions expected through Christmas weekend

FRESNO, Calif.

Valley-wide, inspectors have issued about 350 citations for illegal burning since November. That's more than twice as many as last year.

Officials say the increase is likely because it's been colder this year. But now they're asking families not to light those yule logs this holiday weekend.

Brian Reinhardt is stocking up on wood to stay warm this weekend. "I've got a wood stove, and this is a lot cheaper heat, and I like this heat better than electric heat," said Madera Ranchos resident Brian Reinhardt.

Reinhardt is exempt from burning restrictions because he lives in the Madera Ranchos and has no access to natural gas. He's one of many rural residents who buy wood at Bella Frutta in Clovis.

Owner Pat Ricchiuti says the cold temperatures have business booming. "From early in the morning, people are lined and they come out here and get from bundles to bins to cords."

But the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District says a growing number of people are using their fireplaces on no burn days. Since November 1st, officials have issued 127 citations in Fresno County. That's up from 76 last year. And Madera County has had 14 citations, compared to six last year.

"Air quality is poor in the central part of the San Joaquin Valley, and we don't anticipate that changing. The earliest would be sometime next week," said Jaime Holt with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.

Holt said a lack of rain recently has left polluted air sitting right over the Valley. And it's taking a toll on the health of local residents. "It's not just young kids and older adults right now, air quality has gotten so poor that folks are beginning to struggle with their own respiratory problems."

So Holt is reminding people who have other forms of heat not to light a fire this holiday weekend, even though it may be tempting.

If you are caught burning on a no-burn day, you'll pay $50.00 for a first offense.

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