The annual cold weather air pollution control program, Check Before You Burn, is slated to return Sunday.
The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District is launching the 13th year of the program that aims to curb the unhealthy particles released into the air from smoke.
“Wood smoke is one of the most dangerous pollutants that you can expose yourself, your children, and your neighbors to,” said Seyed Sadredin, the District’s executive director and air pollution control officer. “Prolonged exposure to wood smoke can lead to pulmonary arterial hypertension, pulmonary heart disease, heart failure and cancer.”
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.
The Air District reports that Valley businesses, including farms and dairies have spent over $40 billion on modernizing their facilities, installing clean air technologies, and complying with the toughest air regulations in the nation. As a result, air pollution from Valley businesses has been reduced by over 80 percent.
According to the Air District, smoke from residential wood burning constitutes the largest source of dangerous particulate emissions during winter months.
“The Check Before You Burn program provides an opportunity for Valley residents to do their part to help reduce air pollution and improve public health throughout the San Joaquin Valley,” said Sadredin. “The cooperation and understanding of the Valley’s residents has made this the single most cost-effective clean air strategy the Air District has adopted.”
This year, under the revised Check Before You Burn program, Valley residents that have invested in cleaner, certified wood burning devices will be allowed to have additional burn days if they register their devices with the Air District.
This season the Air District will issue declarations of either: No restrictions, burning discouraged; No burning unless registered; or No burning for all.
Last year the Air District issued fewer prohibitions for wood burning and had a cleaner air basin, partially because of the increased number of residents using the cleaner burning devices. Through the end of the program last year, the Air District issued prohibitions for no burning for all 36 times.
Valley residents wanting to switch out older wood-burning devices for a cleaner model can take advantage of the District’s Burn Cleaner grants which provide $1,000 for certified wood, pellet inserts, freestanding stoves or natural gas inserts or $2,500 for eligible low-income applicants for all devices. An additional $500 is available to all applicants for the installation costs of a natural gas device. To participate in this program please visit www.valleyair.org/burncleaner.
There are two exceptions to wood-burning prohibitions: If the residence does not have another source of heat or if the residence does not have access to natural-gas service (even if propane is used) then, they are exempt from the rule and may continue to use their device. Residents may get exemption information at www.valleyair.org/Rule4901. Additionally, fireplace inserts or stoves that run solely on gas or propane, and never burn wood, continue to be exempt from the rule. Wood-burning declarations also apply to outdoor devices and chimineas.
To get the daily burn status, Valley residents may sign up for email notifications by visiting www.valleyair.org/CBYB. Daily wood-burning declarations are also available by calling 1-800-SMOG INFO (766-4463) or by downloading the free iPhone app “Valley Air” from the App Store. The declarations will also run in the Turlock Journal each publication day.