Local air officials are advising San Joaquin Valley residents that conditions are expected to remain cold, dry and stagnant throughout the week, causing PM2.5 (particulate matter pollution) emissions to accumulate, resulting in higher pollution concentrations throughout the Valley air basin. The basin includes the counties of San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and the Valley portion and the Frazier Park area of Kern.
Strong nighttime inversions and minimal winds this week will trap pollutants on the Valley floor.
“Stable conditions like those we are currently experiencing are one of the main challenges the San Joaquin Valley faces during the winter months,” said Samir Sheikh, Valley Air District Executive Director and Air Pollution Control Officer. “During times like this, residential wood smoke stays in your neighborhood, impacting your neighbors.”
Residential wood burning is one of the Valley’s largest sources of wintertime PM 2.5 emissions and shown to have a direct effect on neighborhood air quality and public health. The District warns that adherence to the Check before You Burn Program is critical to prevent air pollution from reaching unhealthy levels and asks that residents avoid heating their homes by burning wood, if possible. Refraining from the use of any outdoor wood burning devices is also urged. This includes fire pits, outdoor fireplaces and chimeneas.
Exposure to PM 2.5 can trigger asthma attacks, aggravate chronic bronchitis, and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Individuals with heart or lung disease should follow their doctors’ advice for dealing with episodes of PM exposure. Those with existing respiratory conditions, including COVID-19, young children and the elderly, are especially susceptible to the health effects from this form of pollution.
Check Before You Burn runs from Nov. 1 through the end of February every year, reducing PM 2.5 emissions from residential wood smoke. During that time, the District releases a daily, county-by-county wood burning declaration based on the air quality forecast. The three possible declarations are: No Burning For All, No Burning Unless Registered and Burning Discouraged. Individuals found burning when it is not allowed could receive a fine up to $100 for first time violators.
Wood burning curtailments do not apply to natural gas devices. Residences in areas with no natural gas service or where wood burning is the sole source of heat are exempt. Areas where propane tanks are used are considered to be without natural gas service. Outdoor wood burning devices at all residences are still subject to daily restrictions, regardless of exemption status.
Valley residents are encouraged to participate in the Burn Cleaner incentive program and receive as much as $3,000 to upgrade from older, higher-polluting wood stoves and open-hearth fireplaces to EPA Certified wood, pellet or natural gas inserts and free-standing stoves. To participate in this program, visit www.valleyair.org/burncleaner.
Daily burn information is available by visiting checkbeforeyouburn.org, by calling 1-800-SMOG INFO (766-4463), or by downloading the free “Valley Air” app on your mobile device. In addition, residents are invited to sign up for daily email wood-burning notifications.