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Valley wood-burning curtailments may expand
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The nights of sitting in front of a warm fire could become an infrequent occurrence in the Central Valley as new lower standards for wood-burning prohibitions are under consideration by the air district.

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District is considering revisions to the burn curtailment program to help keep the Central Valley below the federal guidelines for particulate matter. The air district is currently gathering public and business comments and suggestions about the proposed changes.

The central element of the air district's curtailment effort is the Check Before You Burn program. Check Before You Burn requires wood-burning prohibitions on days when levels of fine-particulate matter (PM2.5) are forecast to exceed the federal health standard. Wood-burning forecasts are issued daily for each county. Currently the level at which no burn days are declared is at 30 micrograms per cubic meter of PM2.5. The air district is considering dropping the level to 20 micrograms per cubic meter. They are also discussing extending the Check Before You Burn from October to the end of March.

wPM2.5 is a particularly harmful type of air pollution that is linked to chronic lung disease, respiratory illness, heart attacks and premature death. Check Before You Burn minimizes the build-up of particulates. The District issues wood-burning forecasts by county beginning at midnight for the following 24 hours. Forecasts are derived from analyzing multiple factors, including meteorology, expected emissions and other variables.

The air district also is considering ways to promote and expand the movement to replace wood-burning devices with cleaner versions, such as pellet stoves. The air district has provided funding to help replace more than 4,000 wood-burning devices over the years. Under the new guidelines the air district is considering, cleaner burning devices would be allowed to burn on days when traditional devices are prohibited.

The air district is expected to hold another community workshop to discuss the revisions in April or May.