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District Says No Burning Wood in Residential Fireplaces Below 3,000 Feet Friday

SCAQMD Check Before You Burn Map for 1/3/2014
SCAQMD Check Before You Burn Map for 1/3/2014
Update 2:55 p.m. The South Coast Air Quality Management District has issued four residential no-burn alerts so far this winter season, including the restriction for Friday Jan. 3, a district spokeswoman said Thursday.

The district approved changes in May 2013 to its residential wood burning and open burning programs "to further reduce harmful fine particulate pollution throughout the Southland during fall and winter months, November through February," according to a news release headlined SCAQMD Approves Measures to Further Reduce Pollution from Residential Wood Burning, Open Burning in the Southland.

"Included in the amendments was the lowering of the threshold level that triggers a mandatory no-burn day," district spokeswoman Tina Cox said in an email Jan. 2. "It was anticipated that lowering the threshold would trigger more no-burn days. Since November 1, we have issued four no-burn alerts this season. The Check Before You Burn season ends on February 28."

Posted 2:25 p.m. 
The South Coast Air Quality Management District has issued another residential no-burn alert for Friday Jan. 3, stating people who live in the greater L.A. metro area, Orange County, and the Inland Empire are not permitted to burn wood in their fireplaces tomorrow due to a forecast for "elevated fine particulate levels."

The residential no-burn area includes communities and neighborhoods in the San Gorgonio Pass area below 3,000 feet elevation, according to the district.

"Residents in these areas are prohibited from burning wood or manufactured fire logs in their fireplaces from midnight tonight to midnight on Friday," district officials said Jan. 2.

The district's no-burn alerts do not apply to mountain communities above 3,000 feet in elevation, the Coachella Valley or the High Desert, SCAQMD officials said.

"Homes that rely on wood as a sole source of heat, low-income households and those without natural gas service also are exempt from the requirement," district officials said.

A list of exemptions to the South Coast Air Quality Management District restrictions of burning wood in residential fireplaces includes:

- Households above an elevation of 3,000 feet.

- Wood-burning devices that are a household's sole source of heat

- Low-income households

- Properties where there is no existing infrastructure for natural gas service within 150 feet of the property line

- Ceremonial fires exempted under Rule 444 - Open Burning

Some Pass area residents questioned the need for the district's residential no-burn alerts in December.

Violators could be required to pay a first-time fine of $50 or complete a "smoke awareness class" online, SCAQMD spokesman Sam Atwood said Dec. 17 in a phone interview.

"We hope people comply voluntarily but if we get complaints we will follow up and investigate," Atwood said. "When we do investigate we're not going to contact any residents or knock on any doors."

A district inspector would have to witness smoke from a chimney firsthand to issue a violation, Atwood said.

Here's more from the district Jan. 2 announcement:

On a no-burn day, residents can enter their ZIP code at www.aqmd.gov to see if they live in an affected area. They can also sign up for daily reports on air quality and Check Before You Burn alerts at www.airalerts.org or call SCAQMD's 24-hour Check Before You Burn toll-free line at (866) 966-3293.

SCAQMD's Check Before You Burn program, in effect each winter from Nov. 1 to the end of February, is designed to protect public health by minimizing harmful wood smoke from residential wood burning. No-burn alerts are called when air quality is forecast to be elevated due to fine particulate levels (PM2.5). Wood smoke contains hundreds of contaminants including PM2.5, a pollutant linked to increased emergency room visits and hospitalizations, as well as increased risk of heart attacks and early deaths.

SCAQMD is the air pollution control agency for major portions of L.A., San Bernardino and Riverside counties and all of Orange county. For more info on Check Before You Burn and alternatives to wood burning, see www.healthyhearths.org.

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