Wood burning contributing to bad air quality in the Valley

FRESNO, Calif.

The air is so dirty in some spots you can see the haze in the dark.

At a home in Fresno County the crackle of a warm fire seems like a perfect way to spend these cold valley nights. But the smoke coming from the flames, air officials say, is contributing to the hazy skylines we've been facing all week.

"It has been very gross," said Fresno resident Kamie Haflich. "It's very dark, you can't see the mountains. I work in Coarsegold so every time I drive into work I can't see the mountains, they're not there. It's just a gray fog."

Haflich, like many others, is suffering from chest pain and congestion. The Valley Air District says that pain is from excessive amounts of particulate matter sitting right on the valley floor.

"We haven't seen air quality quite this bad in several years," said Jamie Holt from the air district.

Charts from the air district show, from Tuesday to Wednesday, air pollution levels have spiked into the unhealthy zone. They rose to levels at twice the federal standard both days.

Action News found one family burning a bonfire in their backyard just west of Fresno. They say it's their only source of heat since the in-home heater is busted. If that is the case a citation wouldn't be issued. But, pollution is so bad right now any burning is discouraged.

"We encourage residents that every day they shouldn't be using their wood burning fire place or stove," Holt said. "But we do call those no burn days when air quality is at its worst, and we have been calling them quite a lot lately."

So far this 'burn season,' which began November first, the air district has called 20 no-burn days compared to just 12 last season.

Fresno allergist Dr. Bill Ebbeling says the only way to protect yourself is to stay inside. "My patients are told don't go out into this air," he said. "Stay inside as much as possible. If you have to go through it, put your car on recycle. But don't get out there."

The air district is citing people for burning on nights where it's prohibited. 65 people have been cited so far, just in Fresno County, since November first. The district is encouraging everyone to report wood burning when you spot it.

For more information on Check Before You Burn Days please visit : www.valleyair.org

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