Dirty air days and nights stack-up

FRESNO, Calif.

This is the driest season since 1989. The air is so bad; the Valley has been under a consecutive no-burn policy since December 16th. Without rain, the air quality will continue to get worse. That's created a severe health hazard for people all over the Valley.

John Calote, 14, of Easton has battled allergy problems for years. But, these days, his symptoms have gotten worse.

Calote said, "I've noticed an itching in my eyes, my nose was plugged up, and I didn't know what was wrong."

Doctors at the Baz Allergy, Asthma and Sinus Center in Northeast Fresno say they've been incredibly busy this winter. Without any rain, they say the Valley's air is full of particulate matter, which is making more and more people sick.

Dr. Praveen Buddiga said, "The particulate matter down, the dust in the air that kicks up, it's not bringing it down to ground level. It's still kinda floating in the atmosphere and we tend to breathe that."

Take one look at the Fresno skyline, and you can actually see what Dr. Buddiga is talking about.

Officials at the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District say in an effort to clean up the air, they've been forced to implement more no-burn days than they have in years. In Fresno County for example, there have been 47 curtailment days since November first. During all of last season, which ends March first, they had just 24.

Janelle Schneider said, "The fact is that until something happens that will mix up the atmosphere and get rid of this pollution that accumulates, things are pretty much status quo."

Without being able to use their fireplace, some Valley residents have complained to the Air Pollution Control District about higher heating bills. Still, officials say, it's not only the law to implement certain restrictions. More than anything, it's about protecting people's health.

If you are caught lighting a fire on a no burn day, unless it's your only source of heat, you will face a fifty dollar fine for the first offense. The Air Pollution Control District says they have about 60 officers, who drive around looking for offenders.

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