Breaking Wood Burning Habit during 'No Burn Days'

November 28, 2011

The Maricopa County Air Quality Department has issued 39 notices so far this year to people who’ve violated the county’s ‘No Burn Day’ ordinance.  It’s against the law to use a wood burning fireplace or fire pit on days when the air is stagnant.  But as KJZZ’s Paul Atkinson reports, no one has ever been fined.

Barbara Burkholder and her husband always enjoyed a crackling fire during the holidays.  But then they learned about the danger of fine particulate matter from burning wood.

BARBARA BURKHOLDER “And those particulates get deep down into the lungs.  It’s very hard to get them out.  You can’t cough them out.  And do serious problems for everybody—not just people with asthma.” (11)

A county ordinance prohibits people from burning wood in fireplaces or firepits on “No Burn Days.”  Last year, the Air Quality Department received more than 500 complaints says its director Bill Wiley.

BILL WILEY “If they do burn, the first time we’re notified about that, they’ll get a warning letter. The second time they’ll get a fine of 50 dollars.  The third time a fine of 100 dollars and beyond that a fine of 250-dollars.”

But the county only sent out six notices to homeowners and didn’t fine anyone.  It did however, find six businesses in violation of their air quality permits.  Barbara Burkholder, who serves on the board of directors of the Arizona Asthma Coalition, says government and media must make more people aware of no-burn days.

BARBARA BURKHOLDER “I went to a party last year where the fireplaces were burning. And only the day afterward did I find out it was a no-burn day.  So I think we need to do a better job distributing the information widely.”

Burkholder recommends people convert their wood-burning fireplaces to natural gas or better yet…do what she did…put a T-V in front of it and play a video of a burning fire.  For KJZZ, I’m Paul Atkinson

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