No-burn season has begun

By Joshua Emerson Smith / jsmith@mercedsunstar.comNovember 3, 2012 

The valley's no-burn seasons started Thursday.

Before firing up a wood burning stove, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District asks residents to check at www.valleyair.org/aqinfo/WoodBurnPage.htm.

Depending on air quality forecasts, the air district prohibits residential wood burning, including the use of fireplaces, wood-burning heaters, pellet stoves and outdoor devices such as fire pits.

Burning wood on no-burn days can result in a fine. Exceptions are granted to residents without access to natural-gas service or for whom burning solid fuel is their sole source of heat.

The wood-burning curtailment program is critical in minimizing levels of harmful particulate matter in the eight-county air basin, according to regional air quality officials.

"Thanks to the public's support and cooperation, this rule is the single most-effective, lowest-cost regulation on record in the valley," said Seyed Sadredin, Air District executive director. "It is absolutely imperative to improved air quality."

On days when burning is allowed, the air district encourages residents to use manufactured fire logs or dry, seasoned wood. Gas fireplaces are always allowed.

Residential wood burning is considered to be the single largest source of harmful particulate matter during the winter. It can exacerbate respiratory illness and cause lung infections and bronchitis.

Thursday marked the 10th year of the wintertime pollution-reduction program, which officials said has resulted in "historically clean" wintertime air quality in the valley.

Daily wood-burning forecasts are posted online each day at 4:30 p.m., or by calling (800) 766-4463.

Residents can sign up for e-mail notifications on the air district's website at www. valleyair.org/lists/list.htm.

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