Rules spark a slow burn

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Rules spark a slow burn

Postby Wilberforce » Tue Nov 13, 2012 10:27 pm

Rules spark a slow burn
Some see fireplace-use restrictions as issue of personal freedom

By Alex Breitler
Record Staff Writer
November 01, 2012 12:00 AM

Wedged between walnut and olive orchards off Alpine Road is a different kind of farmer - 69-year-old Dave Smith, whose "crop" consists of towering piles of firewood.

This is where downed trees and orchard trimmings from across Stockton find a new purpose, as they're stacked, seasoned and sold to homeowners to provide heat and ambience during those long, gray San Joaquin County winters.

There's enough oak, elm and eucalyptus on Smith's 3-acre lot to fill 500 pickups.

But business is nothing like it used to be. Not with ever-tightening restrictions on fireplace burning.

"Wood is a dying industry, and we know that," said Smith, climbing out of his truck after returning from a delivery Wednesday morning. "Once the government got a foot in the door, it's only a matter of time until they outlaw the whole thing."

The season for fireplace burn restrictions begins today throughout the San Joaquin Valley. In Stockton, where air quality isn't as bad as Fresno or Bakersfield, no-burn days have normally been infrequent.

In the future, however, they are likely to occur regularly even in the north Valley, as air quality officials struggle to meet tightening federal pollution standards.

The tiny particles contained in wood smoke are one of our most dangerous air pollutants, and a draft plan to control them calls for more than doubling the number of no-burn days as soon as 2014. In San Joaquin County, the average number of prohibitions would rise from 18 days to 47 days.

Or, roughly once every three days from November through February.

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District has all kinds of rules to curb pollution from businesses and farms. Rarely has a rule struck such an emotional chord as telling people they can't burn in their own fire-places.

"No doubt there is a very vocal minority that opposes this," said Seyed Sadredin, executive director of the air district. "They see it as a freedom issue, telling them what to do in their homes."

But, he added, "I think there has also been a definite shift in getting more public support for this. We get a lot more calls now for a total ban on fireplace burning. We have a lot of people expressing their appreciation."

Wood smoke accounts for up to 30 percent of the harmful tiny particles in the air each winter, making the fireplace rule crucial to meeting the standard, Sadredin said.

That accomplishment would prevent more than 800 premature deaths in the Valley each year, including 110 premature deaths in San Joaquin County, according to a 2008 study by California State University, Fullerton.

In addition to the health benefits, the Valley would avoid sanctions such as a loss of federal highway funding and a de facto ban on new and expanding businesses.

Even as the Valley works to meet the particulate standard, a new and even stricter one has been proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency. Asked if the district might ultimately consider a total ban on fireplace burning, given the high stakes, Sadredin said: "If EPA keeps moving the goalpost.

"We know at this point there isn't much more we can do to businesses," he added. "They're already subject to the toughest regulations in the nation. We really have no other place to go."

Back at the wood lot, Smith said he'll soon retire anyway. He has income from his previous retirement as a Franklin High School teacher, and the wood business is tough work that isn't going to make anyone rich.

He started selling wood more than 10 years ago to help his daughter raise $1,200 for a trip to New York; the modest fundraiser evolved into Dave's Firewood, which he worked hard to grow until air quality rules began chopping away at his business.

"Just big government, taking away freedom," Smith said.

Contact reporter Alex Breitler at (209) 546-8295 or Visit his blog at

Check before you burn

Today through the end of February, Valley residents are asked to check before lighting a fire. Call (800) 766-4463 or visit

On prohibition days, burning any solid fuel is illegal except in homes that have no natural gas or for residents who rely on fireplaces or wood stoves as their sole source of heat.

Violators can be cited.

source ... /211010316


Burning thoughts
By Alex Breitler | Published: November 1, 2012 | 1 Comment

Today’s story about wood-burning restrictions reports that San Joaquin County’s average number of no-burn days is likely to increase from 18 to 47 each winter, if officials move forward with a plan to tighten the rule.

The No. 1 comment I get on air pollution stories is probably about Stockton being stuck into the same air district as dirtier Fresno or Bakersfield — and therefore being subject to the same regulations.

Dave Smith, the firewood dealer quoted in today’s story, told me, “How our air district got lumped in with Bakersfield, 200 miles away, is beyond me. Fifteen miles up the road, in Calaveras County, you can burn all you want, anytime.”

Seyed Sadredin, executive officer of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, pointed out that wood smoke is a highly localized pollutant.

You can smell it wafting from your neighbors’ chimneys. And if you can smell it, the tiny and deadly particles are getting inhaled into your lungs.

So when it comes to wood smoke, there is a local impact even if our air is generally cleaner than our neighbors to the south.

The district’s draft PM2.5 control report describes the fireplace measure in more detail, and includes reference to the possibility that the wood-burning threshold might be lowered only in certain parts of the Valley.

That’s not the preferred choice, Sadredin told me.

“The federal government and the Clean Air Act sees this as a single air basin, not eight separate entities,” he said.

It may be, however, that people with EPA-certified cleaner-burning wood stoves might be granted some kind of leniency to burn when folks with open hearth fireplaces cannot, he added.

source ... -thoughts/

San Joaquin Valley Air District 2012 PM2.5 Plan ... ns2012.htm
• The Surgeon General has determined that there is no safe level of exposure to ambient smoke!

• If you smell even a subtle odor of smoke, you are being exposed to poisonous and carcinogenic chemical compounds!

• Even a brief exposure to smoke raises blood pressure, (no matter what your state of health) and can cause blood clotting, stroke, or heart attack in vulnerable people. Even children experience elevated blood pressure when exposed to smoke!

• Since smoke drastically weakens the lungs' immune system, avoiding smoke is one of the best ways to prevent colds, flu, bronchitis, or risk of an even more serious respiratory illness, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis! Does your child have the flu? Chances are they have been exposed to ambient smoke!
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