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Smoke from Fireplaces and Woodstoves

During the winter months, some residents can be affected by smoke from fireplaces and wood burning appliances. Wood smoke particles (PM 2.5) are so tiny they seep into houses--even through closed doors and windows. The District has available a "Light it Right" brochure which provides guidelines on minimizing smoke emissions from wood burning appliances and fireplaces. It also contains information on the District's voluntary program "Don't Light Tonight" to curtail wood smoke.

The District will call a "Don't Light Tonight" when PM 2.5 is forecasted to be 25 micrograms per cubic meter or higher. The District receives a 2-day forecast from Sonoma Technology in order to provide advance notification to residents.

There are two (2) sites in Yolo County:

  • Davis
  • Woodland

and two (2) sites in Solano County:

  • Rio Vista
  • Vacaville 

which provide us with PM 2.5 readings. Residents can also sign up at http://ysaqmd.enviroflash.org for automated notifications. This service is free. For regional air quality go www.sparetheair.com.

What pollutants are produced by wood stoves and fireplaces?
Wood stoves and fireplaces produce several types of pollution including particulate matter, carbon monoxide, organic gases, formaldehyde, and nitrogen oxides. These pollutants are known to cause numerous health problems including respiratory and cardiovascular illness and can contribute to atmospheric visibility problems and property damage. Of particular concern in our area are emissions of PM2.5 (fine particles). Fine Particulate Matter, known as PM2.5, is a complex mixture that may contain soot, smoke, metals, nitrates, sulfates, dust, water and tire rubber. It can be directly emitted, as in smoke from a fire, or it can form in the atmosphere from reactions of gases such as nitrogen oxides.

What can I do to reduce pollution from wood burning?
Wood smoke can harm your health. It can affect everyone, even neighbors who don't heat with wood. One obvious way to minimize the harmful effects of wood smoke is to reduce or eliminate the frequency of wood burning. If you heat with wood, consider cleaner alternatives such as gas or electric heat and be sure your house is properly weatherized to use energy in the most efficient way possible. If you do burn wood in a stove or fireplace, replace older stoves with newer EPA certified cleaner-burning models; and learn the correct way to use your stove or fireplace and reduce its pollution. Remember that wood smoke is unburnt fuel, some of which accumulates in your chimney as creosote while the rest exits the stack as smoke. The key to reducing air pollution from wood stoves and fireplaces is to burn the fuel more completely. Less smoke means cleaner air for you, your family, your neighbors and the environment. And the less smoke you produce, the more heat and value you get from your wood.

On December 8, 2004, the Board of Directors approved Rule 2.40 Wood Burning Appliances. The purpose of this rule is to manage the emissions of particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and other air contaminants from wood burning appliances. Effective January 1, 2006, any new development (residential or commercial, single or multi-building units) installing wood burning appliances must use either a pellet-fueled heater, a U.S. EPA Phase II certified wood buring heater or a gas fireplace. Installation of an open hearth wood burning fireplace is prohibited.

A Model Wood Burning Ordinance was also adopted for use by cities and counties within the District's jurisdiction which would like to obtain further reductions in emissions from wood burning appliances.

Check with the District for any financial incentives for woodstove changeouts. Call (530) 757-3650 or (800) 287-3650.