Because the Phoenix area is in a valley, pollution and air quality is a constant problem. During periods of high particulate pollution, the Maricopa County Air Quality Department will issue warnings or restrictions.
Burning wood in fireplaces and wood stoves, whether inside the home or outside, contributes to the high levels of particulate matter, specifically PM-2.5. Particulates are simply solid pieces of stuff that are floating around in the air.
We are in the Sonoran Desert, so dust, our primary year-round particulate challenge, is not going away soon. In the winter, when people like to get cozy around the fireplace or gather around the outdoor fire pit making s'mores, the ash from the burning wood exacerbates the problem. I know, I know -- this means that you might not be able to use your fireplace on Christmas morning or on New Year's Eve. This is something you might consider when you build a home with a fireplace.
Maricopa County monitors air quality and issues alerts and restrictions when the pollution is deemed to be a health danger -- that is called a high pollution advisory, or HPA. When that happens, they will declare a No Burn Day. On those days all fireplace, woodstove and outdoor burning devices, including the burning of manufactured logs, is prohibited. The restriction typically lasts for 24 hours, starting at midnight the day the HPA is issued. If you are caught ignoring the woodburning restriction, your fine will range from $50 up to $250.
How do you know when a restriction has been issued? Usually news programs will announce it, but you find out in several other ways. Before you light up that woodburning stove or fireplace:
Keep in mind that the restriction is about burning, so it isn't just about fireplaces. Burning leaves, trash or really anything else on a No Burn Day is prohibited by the County.
Finally, if you want to file a complaint about someone who is violating a No Burn Day restriction, you can do that by phone at 602-372-2703, or online.
Have more questions about air quality or No Burn Days? Visit Clean Air Make More. It is "an educational outreach initiative created to inform Maricopa County residents about air pollution challenges we face in the county and provide them with the tools they need to take action."
Source: Maricopa County Air Quality Department.