During wildland fires — including recent record-breaking events — billowing columns of smoke spread harmful levels of air pollution across wide areas of the Southland. Particulate matter, or small particles suspended in the air, is one of the main components of smoke. High levels of particulate matter from wildfires can cause throat and eye irritation, aggravate asthma and trigger other respiratory conditions. Breathing high levels of particulate matter over long periods of time can also cause more serious health problems.
Smoke from burning wood in home fireplaces contains the same primary pollutants as smoke from wildfires. Although some might consider residential wood smoke as “natural,” smoke caused by burning wood in fireplaces can emit more than five tons of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) per day in the South Coast Air Basin. That is more than three times the amount of PM2.5 emitted from all of the power plants in the Southland.
To reduce hazards caused by residential wood smoke, the South Coast Air Quality Management District created the Check Before You Burn campaign. As part of this effort, “no-burn” alerts are issued by SCAQMD when stagnant weather conditions are forecast to elevate fine particulate pollution to unhealthy levels. On no-burn days, wood burning in fireplaces, backyard fire pits and wood stoves is prohibited in the four-county region (Orange County and the non-desert portions of Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Riverside counties). The Check Before You Burn season begins every year on Nov. 1 and ends the last day of February.
This winter, unusually persistent, stagnant conditions have resulted in more than 30 no-burn days – more than any previous year since no-burn alerts were first issued in 2012. Help do your part to protect your family’s and community’s health by not burning on no-burn days. For more information, visit www.airalerts.org.