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Unhealthy Air Hangs Over Fresno on Eve of ‘Check Before You Burn’

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Unhealthy air will persist in the Valley because of low winds, smoke, and emissions trapped in the region. (Shutterstock)
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The San Joaquin Air Pollution District is advising people to stay inside as much as possible this Halloween weekend because weather conditions have trapped fine particulates in the air.

Even after the big rainstorm earlier this week, lingering wildfire smoke continues to add to the Valley’s air pollution, district officials said.

The good news is, residents wanting to protect their health, as well as community health, can take advantage of grant programs.

What’s Causing the Bad Air Quality?

The rain that made its way into the Valley on Monday provided only a few hours of relief from the wildfire smoke and other minuscule particles.

“We have some really bad meteorological conditions that … put a lid over the Valley,” said Samir Sheikh, the air district’s executive director, during a county public health Zoom meeting on Friday.

“We have specific weather conditions that really lead the formation of this PM2.5, which is a very impactful pollutant. It’s very unhealthy for residents to breathe.”

Low wind speeds combined with the wildfire smoke and emissions from vehicles and manufacturing are producing unsafe air quality, Sheikh said.

Valley Officials Say No Wood Burning This Winter

“We also have grants available for residents, so if you happen to have a wood stove or an open-hearth fireplace, and want to convert that, we would encourage you to convert it into a natural gas insert or perhaps an electric.” — Samir Sheikh, executive director, San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution District

Beginning on Monday, Nov. 1, and continuing until the end of February, the district’s wood-burning reduction program will be in effect.

“Choosing not to use your wood-burning fireplace or fire pit this winter is critical in our pollution reduction efforts and key to public health,” said Sheikh.

Under “Check Before You Burn,” the air district issues a daily wood-burning advisory.

Depending on weather and air-quality conditions, the advisory could be “no restrictions, but wood-burning is discouraged” in stoves and fireplaces. Or, it could ban burning entirely.

Any burning of trash and yard refuse is prohibited year-round.

Fines are part of the program, but the district says it would rather educate residents about why wood burning is harmful.

District Offers Grant To Reduce Emissions

District officials encourage residents to take action in combatting bad air quality by using grants that help pay for zero-emission devices.

“We also have grants available for residents, so if you happen to have a wood stove or an open-hearth fireplace, and want to convert that, we would encourage you to convert it into a natural gas insert or perhaps an electric,” said Sheikh.

Valley District officials have an online portal where residents can apply for grants of up to $3,000.

Liz Juarez joined GV Wire in July, 2021 as a Digital News Producer. She has experience working for publications around the Central Valley including the Clovis Roundup, Porterville Recorder and Hanford Sentinel. While in college, she interned for Mountain West Athletics and served as Outreach Chair for the Fresno State Radio and Television Digital News Association (RTDNA). Liz earned a bachelor's degree in Media Communications and Journalism at Fresno State and a master's degree in Communications from Arizona State University. In her down time, she enjoys reading, drawing and staying active by playing basketball, taking trips to the coast and visiting national parks. You can contact Liz at liz.juarez@gvwire.com

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