Better air quality, fewer wood-burning bans this winter

-- San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control DistrictMarch 14, 2013 

Dramatically improved air quality in the Valley air basin this winter resulted in fewer residential wood-burning curtailments than during the previous "Check Before You Burn" season.

The annual wintertime program that reduces dangerous particle pollution ended its 10th season Feb. 28. During the 2012-2013 season, there were 187 "No Burn Days"district-wide (San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and the Valley portion of Kern counties). This compares to 381 "No Burn Days" during the 2011-2012 season, representing a decrease of more than 50% Valley-wide.

In Madera County, there were only six prohibitions compared to 41 in the 2011-2012 year. There were also 24 notices of violation compared to 54 in the 2011-12 year.

There were just three days during this winter when air quality was "unhealthy" in any county, compared to 41 such days last winter. Also, the number of days when air quality was rated "unhealthy for sensitive groups" decreased by 54% over last winter.

Check Before You Burn, which curtails residential wood burning when air quality deteriorates in order to prevent build-up of fine-particulate matter (PM2.5), is the district's single most-successful and cost-effective regulation. Since it was adopted in 2003, the air basin has seen dramatic improvements to winter air quality, when residential wood burning is the largest single source of PM2.5.

PM2.5 -- small particles of soot, ash and other airborne material -- is a harmful form of air pollution that is linked to chronic lung disease, respiratory illness, heart attacks and premature death. One Valley-wide curtailment results in air-pollution reductions equivalent to taking 140,000 trucks off the road.

Each day at 4:30 p.m., the district issues wood-burning forecasts for each of the air basin's eight counties beginning at midnight for the following 24 hours. Forecasts are derived through analyzing many factors, including meteorology, expected emissions, atmospheric patterns and other variables.

Forecasts are available through many means, including:

The toll-free forecast number, 1-800-466-7763.

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