No Burning Unless Registered
No Burning for All
Notices of Violation
Kern (Valley portion)
Sequoia Nat. Park
The Check Before You Burn Program is expected to close out the winter season Saturday with far fewer wood-burning prohibitions issued than in the past and a cleaner air basin, according to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.
The reduction in the number of prohibitions is largely due to the air district allowing for the use of cleaner wood-burning devices that had been registered.
The Check Before You Burn program aims to minimize the amount of harmful particulate matter that is released into the Valley air basin by restricting when residential wood-burning devices can be used. From November to February the air district releases a declaration each day on whether or not wood-burning devices, such as fireplaces, can be used. The declaration is based on the air quality index for the day and whether or not the particulate matter from wood-burning devices would push it into a zone that is above federal and health guidelines.
This winter, the regulation was amended to allow users of EPA Phase II-certified wood-burning devices to register them with the air district and use them more frequently than they were allowed in past winters through the adoption of a third wood-burning declaration category, “No burning unless registered.” There are two additional categories that are similar to past years: “No restrictions, burning discouraged” and “No burning for all.”
The air district also reduced the threshold at which the use of older, noncertified units would be allowed to be used.
“The response we received to these changes was enthusiastic,” said Seyed Sadredin, the air district’s executive director and air pollution control officer. “Together with increased funding for the Burn Cleaner program, which grants money to purchase cleaner wood-burning devices, Check Before You Burn has had a very positive effect on winter air quality in the Valley.”
Through February, nearly 3,000 wood-burning devices were registered with the air district as meeting current EPA emission standards. Gas devices and pellet stoves are also clean-burning although they do not need to be registered.
This winter, as of Thursday, there were 36 days when wood burning was not allowed for anyone in at least one county. Comparatively, last winter, there were a total of 376 curtailments throughout the air basin.
Despite the fewer number of all-out wood-burning prohibitions, the air remained cleaner this year, officials said.
“The level at which the use of devices that do not meet current emission standards was prohibited was set at a considerably lower level than in previous years,” Sadredin said. “This resulted in a net decrease in associated emissions, even though cleaner devices could be used more often.”
The air district offered more money this year to Valley residents to change out their older wood-burning devices as well, granting $1,000 to most residents (up from $500 last year) and $2,500 to low-income residents, with an additional $500 available to anyone who purchased a gas-burning device for installing the gas line. This increased funding removed some of the financial obstacles to upgrading wood-burning devices for some residents.
This season, there were fewer days during which the fine-particle level exceeded the federal health standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter. There was also more rain and less atmospheric stagnancy than last winter, although the statewide drought continues with associated air-quality effects.
“The drier weather continues to thwart our efforts to reach attainment for fine particles,” Sadredin said. “But we are encouraged that with these changes to the wood-burning rule, we’re moving in the right direction.”
Beginning March 1, the air district will no longer be issuing a daily residential wood burning status for each county. While no formal burning restrictions will be in place after Saturday, the air district discourages residential wood burning.