San Joaquin Valley residents must check burn status before using woodburning fireplaces

Local News

MODESTO, Calif. (KTXL) — As leaves fall and temperatures drop, millions of homeowners in the San Joaquin Valley will light up their woodburning fireplaces, sending wood smoke into the air. 

Residential burning restrictions to protect air quality were recently put in place in the San Joaquin Valley, meaning homeowners will need to check their county’s burn status before lighting their woodburning fireplaces.

Cassandra Melching with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District said, every winter, they see higher fine particle emissions and other air pollutants, primarily from residential woodburning fireplaces. 

“We’re surrounded by mountains, and it kind of tends to linger and doesn’t have anywhere to go,” Melching told FOX40. 

People with indoor, woodburning fireplaces or outdoor pits will now need to check the air quality status to make sure they’re allowed to burn. 

There are three different statuses: burning discouraged, no burning unless registered and no burning for all. 

“If anybody is found in violation, they will be issued a notice of violation, which is essentially a ticket, and have to pay a monetary fine for breaking the rule,” Melching explained.

For days when burning is allowed, the APCD said, if you’re going to use your fireplace, make sure you’re burning only dry season firewood or fire logs.

“Anytime you burn wood, that smoke doesn’t stay, you know, just in that vicinity. It has a tendency to drift off and it will affect your neighbors and your neighborhood,” Melching said. “And it’s just not impacting them, it drifts off and touches many different homes.”

The rules don’t apply to those with natural gas or electric fireplaces. 

The APCD said they encourage everyone to move away from burning wood because of the impact it can have on some people’s health. 

“It’s a really, really harmful pollutant. So if we can avoid that altogether, then, of course, that would be the best bet,” Melching said.

Those who are interested in moving away from burning wood may be able to participate in the APCD’s Burn Cleaner Program.

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