By Nicole Mooradian
The South Coast Air Quality Management District has extended the current "no burn alert" to last through 11:59 p.m. Saturday. The wood-burning ban—in effect due to an elevated particulate matter air quality forecast—applies to residents in Los Angeles County and several coastal Orange County areas.
According to an email alert from the AQMD, the air quality for Friday and Saturday is predicted to be unhealthy.
Because of this, residents are prohibited from burning "wood or manufactured fire logs" in their fireplaces or outdoor fire pits on Friday and Saturday under the AQMD's "Check Before You Burn" program, according to an alert from the AQMD.
The no-burn area stretches from Inglewood on the north to San Clemente in the south, and encompasses from the coast to up to 20 miles inland. In Los Angeles County, it includes the entire South Bay and much of the Westside, among other areas, according to a map provided by the AQMD.
Wood burning creates an average of 5 tons of harmful PM2.5—very fine particulate matter that's 1/30th the width of a human hair—emissions per day in the South Coast Air Basin, which is four times the amount emitted from all power plants in the area, according to the AQMD. These small particles can lodge deep in the lungs and cause respiratory health problems, and long-term exposure can lead to reduced lung function and chronic bronchitis.
People caught burning wood in their fireplaces during a no-burn alert face fines, according to an email from the AQMD. First-time violators can be fined $50, though they may attend a wood smoke awareness course in lieu of paying the fine. On the second violation, the fine increases to $150, or the resident may install a dedicated gas-fueled fireplace. Third-time violators will be either fined $500 or forced to fund a project that will benefit the environment.
Multiple violations are accrued during individual wood-burning seasons from November through February. To report a suspected violation, call 800-288-7664 or visit aqmd.gov.
Residential wood burning advisories are automatically implemented when PM2.5 particle pollution exceeds 30 micrograms per cubic meter in the months of November, December, January and February. The rule only applies to residences in the South Coast Air Basin at elevations below 3,000 feet.
There is an exemption to the alert for homes where wood burning is the only source of heat and where no natural gas service is available.
According to Dr. Joshua Davidson, a physician in Torrance who specializes in allergy and immunology, air quality alerts should be taken seriously.
"Individuals with COPD, asthma and hay fever should consider spending a good amount of time indoors (on no burn days)," he said. "Limiting outdoor exercise is also a good idea."
— City News Service contributed to this report.