Air pollution police are watching

FRESNO, Calif.

Just two weeks into the regulated wood burning season, and restrictions are already in place.

Janelle Schneider said, "So far in Fresno County we've had two wood burning curtailment days."

No burn days are declared when it looks like weather conditions will keep the soot, or particulate matter from blowing away and that causes unhealthy air conditions. No burn days are in place between November 1st and February 28th. In 2010 burning was banned during more than half of that time period.

"Last year we had a significantly higher number of curtailment days than previously," Schneider said. "And a lot of that was because of weather conditions."

There were 68 no burn days last year, up from 44 the year before. 239 citations were issued last year, way up from the 74 the year before. First time violators get a 50 dollar fine. No burn days have prompted many fireplace owners to switch to gas stoves. High efficiency wood and pellet stoves are also popular, and produce a lot less pollution.

Kevin O'Neill said, "An open fireplace is about 47 grams an hour, a wood insert would be between 1 and 4 grams an hour and a pellet is less than a gram and hour of particulate matter."

But, while you can get a rebate from the Air Pollution Control District for buying one of these cleaner burning units, you still can't light them up on no burn days.

Schneider said, "But even as clean as they may be on a day when wood burning is curtailed we are looking at absolutely minimizing the amount of particulate we have in the air, so any amount is too much."

Reducing the number of wood burning days is working. In the past ten years the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution District reports the number of unhealthy winter air days in the Central Valley have dropped by more than 70 percent.

Tuesday night and Wednesday are no burn days in Fresno County. Any resident who does not have natural gas service to their home is exempt from the no burn days.

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