The ninth season of a critical air quality program concluded on Wednesday, Feb. 29. This year’s ‘Check Before You Burn’ program – which minimizes dangerous airborne particle pollution by restricting burning - featured an unusually high number of wood-burning curtailment days because of historically poor conditions this winter, said San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District officials.
“Considering the abnormal conditions this winter that dealt not only us but air districts statewide one blow after another in terms of air quality, this rule was especially critical in minimizing, to the extent possible, this dangerous form of pollution,” said district air pollution control officer and executive director Seyed Sadredin.
Running from November through February each year, the program restricts the use of residential wood-burning devices when air quality deteriorates in order to prevent the build-up in fine particulate matter (PM2.5). The last two winters prior to this year, were the cleanest on record for the eight county Valley air basin of Stanislaus, San Joaquin, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and the Valley air basin portion of Kern County. This winter was different because of historically dry, stagnant conditions that resulted in multiple consecutive curtailment days in December and January, said Sadredin.
Wood burning is the largest single source of PM2.5 in winter and that is a harmful form of pollution that has been linked to chronic lung disease, respiratory illness, heart attacks and premature death.
Stanislaus County had 51 ‘no burn’ days this season, compared to 25 last year. San Joaquin County, which had just seven ‘no burn’ days in the 2010-11 season, had 29 this year.
Look for additional facts and figures on the Check Before You Burn program in the March 7 issue of The Leader.