The 10th season of a wood-burning curtailment program begins Thursday, a pollution reduction effort aimed at making it easier for residents to breathe in the air in the San Joaquin Valley.
Residential wood burning is the single largest source of harmful particulate matter, known as PM-2.5, according to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.
During winter, as much as 17 tons of PM-2.5 can be pumped into the sky daily, district officials say. The particulate matter can exacerbate respiratory illnesses, such as asthma and cause lung infections and bronchitis.
The "Check Before You Burn" program is critical in minimizing levels of PM-2.5 in the valley's eight-county region.
"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, the district's executive director and air pollution control officer. "It is absolutely imperative to improved air quality."
Each day, the district issues a wood-burning forecast by county for one of two levels: "wood-burning prohibited" or "please burn cleanly."
When wood burning is prohibited, all residential wood burning is banned including fireplaces, wood-burning inserts and heaters, pellet stoves and outdoor devices such as fire pits and chimeneas.
Otherwise, the district encourages residents to use manufactured fire logs, dry, seasoned wood or a gas fireplace.
There are two exceptions to wood-burning prohibitions:
If a home does not have access to natural-gas serv-ice, even if propane is used.
If burning solid fuel is the sole source of heat for a home.
Violators are subject to fines.
Daily wood-burning forecasts are available each day at4:30 p.m. at www. valleyair.org/aqinfo/ woodburnpage, by calling 1-(800) 766-4463, or by subscribing to the Air District's daily air quality forecast at www.valleyair.org/lists/list. The forecast will appear on the upper right corner of The Bee's weather page, too.
For more, visit www.valleyair.org or call district offices in Modesto at (209) 557-6400, Fresno at (559) 230-6000 or Bakersfield at (661) 326-6900.