Check before burning wood – it may be a “No Burn Day”

January 20th, 2017 | by Gilbert Sun News
Check before burning wood – it may be a “No Burn Day”
Opinion
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There isn’t much that gets Valley residents more excited than when the weather finally cools off and we can break out the sweaters and enjoy our fireplace or outdoor fire pit. But before you light that fire, do you check to see if it is a No Burn Day?

One of the more memorable constituent emails I received during my first term in office was from a constituent enraged that I was trying to “crap on Christmas” thanks to our Maricopa County Air Quality Department’s designation of Christmas Eve that year as a No Burn Day.

Not long after, another constituent emailed with concerns that our Valley air had so much pollution, her allergies were flaring up and she begged us to issue more fire restrictions. No matter where you stand on air quality issues, I believe a brief explanation of No Burn Days can help.

In the winter months smoke (technically called “PM 2.5”) becomes an issue in the Valley because the air is more stagnant, keeping smoke closer to the ground. Unhealthy levels of PM 2.5 in our air pose serious health concerns for the elderly, children with asthma and adults with respiratory issues.

High PM 2.5 levels also put the county at risk of not meeting federal standards. I’m not a fan of burdensome regulation placed on us by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), but not meeting the standards could lead to additional federal regulation, stricter rules and higher fines paid by taxpayers.

Our county Air Quality Department does not randomly call High Pollution Advisories or No Burn Days on the holidays. The issuance of No Burn Days is based on weather conditions and the likely usage of wood burning devices. Believe me when I say it’s not our intent to smother the holiday spirit!

So what can you do on a No Burn Day? There are plenty of clean alternatives that don’t involve burning wood. For example, it’s safe to use gas and electric fireplaces, EPA approved pellet stoves, and gas fire pits year round. For those folks that enjoy cooking meals outdoors, your barbeque is also okay to use on No Burn Days.

The fact is, our air has improved because residents of Maricopa County, businesses and our county Air Quality Department have worked together. The number of High Pollution Advisories and No Burn Days are lower than most people realize. In 2015, the county had just one High Pollution Advisory and only exceeded the federal health standard for PM 2.5 three times.

To find out if it’s a No Burn Day, go to cleanairmakemore.com/noburn or call 602-506-6400. You can also communicate questions or complaints through the Clean Air Make More app on your smartphone.

This winter, please abide by the No Burn Days and help a friend understand why it’s important. Think twice before burning wood in fireplaces, chimneys, and outdoor fire pits and consider converting to cleaner, non-wood options. The best way to help keep our air clean, our taxes down, and our neighbors healthy this holiday season is to abide by No Burn Day restrictions.

Denny Barney is a Gilbert resident and a member of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.

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