Late Thursday afternoon, the thick smell of smoke drifted into Stanislaus County from a controlled burn at least 30 miles to the south.
It was a no-burn day here, but not in Merced County.
A 400-acre controlled burn at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge near Los Banos ended about noon, but residents as far north as northeast Modesto (more than 60 miles away) started smelling the residual smoke about 4 p.m.
Today, Merced and Stanislaus County residents will be allowed to burn cleanly.
Burning cleanly, as advised by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, includes:
Using an EPA Phase II-certified wood-burning device and burning dry, seasoned wood.
Never burn trash, magazines, newspapers, plastics or other materials not designed to burn in fireplaces or stoves. This is illegal and hazardous.
For a fire in an open fireplace, a manufactured fire log may be a cleaner alternative to wood.
Residential wood burning is the single largest source of harmful particulate matter during winter, pumping up to 17 tons into the valley sky each day, the district said in a news release. The pollution is known to exacerbate respiratory illness.
"Check Before You Burn" runs though February. The district makes exceptions to the wood-burning prohibitions for homes that do not have access to natural gas service or any other source of heat.
Daily wood-burning forecasts are available at 4:30 p.m. at http://valleyair.org/aqinfo/ WoodBurnPage.htm, by calling (800) 766-4463 or by subscribing to the daily air quality forecast at www.valleyair.org/lists/ list.htm.