Wood burning restricted in Chico

Jim Wagoner, Butte County Air Pollution Control officer

During the months of November through February, wood burning is restricted in the city of Chico.

Butte County keeps track of the air quality within its borders, said Jim Wagoner, air pollution control officer from the Butte County Air Management District.

If the air quality doesn’t meet federal standards, the county issues the voluntary “Check Before You Light” program, an initiative residences can opt not to burn firewood in homes to control air pollution.

On the days the county-wide pollution advisory is put into effect, the city of Chico restricts its citizens of burning wood in their homes or other appliances, Wagoner said.

As one of the most populated cities in Butte County, Chico contributes much to air pollution.

“Especially during the winter months, people want to heat their homes or have fire in the fireplace – places like Chico burn a lot of wood,” he said. “The smoke created from fires lead to air pollution and poor quality.”

“Particulate pollution can lead to health issues, respiratory problems and heart problems,” Wagoner said.“High particulate levels come from wood burning.”

A monitor observes the air quality in the county and records the trends over the year.

In Butte County, once the air pollutant advisory was put into effect, the monitor noticed a 23 percent decrease of particulate level in Butte’s air, a “statistically significant benefit,” Wagoner said

“Butte County came to Chico to pass an ordinance on restricting wood burning,” said Linda Herman, administrative manager for the Chico Public Works Department.

When Butte County couldn’t pass a county wide initiative to restrict wood burning in the winter months, they passed a restriction in Chico, Herman said.

“The enforcement is mainly complaint driven,” Herman said. “If the city notices smoke, we’ll send information about the program. If it’s persistent then we’ll fine the household.”

Although it is a city-wide restriction, there are a number of exemptions, she said.

Wood burning is not restricted if wood is the only source of heat in the house, if the house meets a low-income standard or if the house installs an EPA certified wood stove, Herman said.

“The main improvement of this is the health benefit,” Wagoner said. “It’s a health based program.”

Nathan Lehmann can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.