Environment

It’s fireplace lighting season, but watch out for the $50 fine

Here are some fireplace safety tips

The sight and smell of chimney smoke is common in winter, but follow these tips to ensure your safety
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The sight and smell of chimney smoke is common in winter, but follow these tips to ensure your safety

Sacramento officials are alerting county residents that annual winter fireplace burning restrictions start on Wednesday – with $50 fines for those caught lighting up on days when air quality is forecast to be unhealthy.

Sacramento air management officials said the decade-old “Check Before You Burn” program has helped reduce fine particulate matter from wood smoke by 70 percent on bad air days. The program applies throughout Sacramento County.

“No-burn” days typically occur when conditions are cold, dry and calm, trapping still air low to the ground, said Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District official Lori Kobza.

Sacramento Bee newspaper readers can find daily updates on whether it is a burn or no-burn day on the Bee’s weather page, at the lower right hand corner of the “regional outlook” map.

Last year, inspectors noted nearly 300 violations. More than half of those came from citizen complaints filed with the air district. In most cases, the fine was waived, air officials said. In exchange, those violators took a smoke awareness test.

Heavy rains kept Sacramento air cleaner last winter than during the recent drought years, allowing 54 “legal to burn” days and another 32 days when burning was discouraged, but still allowed. There were 19 days when no burning was allowed and 15 days when only people with federally approved burning devices or pellet fuel were authorized to burn.

For more information on the program, Sacramento County residents can call the air district at 916-874-4800 or 800-880-9025, or visit www.AirQuality.org.

Yolo and eastern Solano counties have a voluntary “Don’t Light Tonight” program, requesting that residents refrain from burning on higher particular matter pollution days. For information, go to www.ysaqmd.org.

El Dorado and Placer counties do not restrict indoor or fireplace burning.

Tony Bizjak: 916-321-1059, @TonyBizjak

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