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Fireplace restrictions start Tuesday for valley
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Homeowners across the San Joaquin Valley will have to check with air quality officials before lighting their fireplaces beginning Tuesday.

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control district is going into its ninth season regulating residential wood burning in an effort to reduce airborne particulate pollution.

Each day, the district uses weather forecasts to determine whether it is safe to burn. Daily forecasts will be available for each of the valley’s eight counties at 4:30 p.m.

High levels of particulate pollution can cause bronchitis, lung disease and increase the risk of heart attacks and stroke.

The valley records some of the highest levels of air pollution in the country because pollution from San Francisco and Sacramento is sucked into the bowl, where it stagnates.

Restrictions will end in February.

Check Before You Burn determines when residential wood burning will add dangerous levels of particulate matter – tiny pieces of soot, ash, dust and other materials – to the Valley’s air, and prohibits the use of residential wood-burning devices.

The past two winters have been the cleanest on record for the air basin. Additionally, the air basin has been declared in attainment of the larger form of particulate matter, PM10.

 “The understanding and efforts of the Valley’s residents have made all the difference in this dramatic wintertime improvement,” said Seyed Sadredin, the Air District’s executive director and air pollution control officer.

 High levels of particulate pollution can have serious health effects, including bronchitis, lung disease and increased risk of heart attacks and stroke. Young children, elderly people and people with existing respiratory and coronary disease are especially vulnerable.

 There are two forecast levels, depending on air quality: “Wood burning Prohibited” and “Please Burn Cleanly.” When a prohibition is declared, burning any solid fuel in a residential fireplace or wood-burning device is not permitted and violations may result in fines. Backyard chimineas and fire pits are also subject to the prohibitions. There are two exemptions:

• If the residence does not have access to natural-gas service, even if propane is available; or

• If burning solid fuel is the sole source of heat for the residence.

 When burning is allowed, the Air District recommends using manufactured fire logs such as Duraflame or dry, seasoned wood to minimize emissions.