This year’s wildfire season seemed relentless, but didn’t seem as bad as last years. Just when you think you have no more smoke to worry about a new season begins. What I mean is the home wood heating season. Locally, LRAPA issues daily Home Wood Heating Advisories from October 1st through May 31st.
It goes back to what makes up the smoke from wood fires. The technical definition of fire as defined by Wikipedia is “the rapid oxidation of a material in the exothermic chemical process of combustion, releasing heat, light, and various reaction products.” It’s those reaction products that we are concerned with here particularly the smoke. Another Wikipedia definition for smoke is “a collection of airborne solid and liquid particulates emitted when a material undergoes combustion or pyrolysis together with the quantity of the air that is entrained or otherwise mixed into the mass.” Wood smoke has been known to contain over 200 chemicals and compound groups and that is where the problem begins when people inhale and pull them into their lungs.
The Home Wood Heating Advisory is issued for two reasons. First of all to alert the public to the amount of particulates in the air so you can avoid as much exposure to it as possible and secondly to let you know when the air quality is getting bad enough that you should either restrict your burning of wood products or even curtail wood burning completely until the air quality significantly improves.
We are all used to the red, yellow, and green colors on our traffic control devices that help prevent accidents on the road. The same colors are used to represent the advisory status.
According to LRAPA “there are three categories used in the Home Wood Heating Advisory:
1) Green – A Green advisory means air quality is good and burning is allowed.
2) Yellow – A Yellow advisory indicates that the air quality is deteriorating and burning is cautioned against.
3) Red – A Red advisory indicates that the air quality is poor and burning is prohibited. Pellet stoves may be used if they produce no visible emissions.
(Pellet stoves may be used anytime if they produce no visible emissions.)
The advisory is determined by taking into account current air pollution levels, the Air Quality Index, and current weather forecasts. Those found in violation of the Red Advisory can fall into one of four categories of fines up to $500 per day in violation.
There are exemptions to the program: “Low income exemptions are allowed for people who meet economic need guidelines. These exemptions allow qualified individual households to heat with wood-burning devices during periods of inadequate atmospheric mixing and poor air quality. Exemptions are granted on a yearly basis to applicants who meet Oregon Housing and Community Services Department Poverty Guidelines.” Here is a link to the LRAPA exemption form.
“The program is and has been mandatory in the Eugene/Springfield area and in the Oakridge area. During the Red Advisory “A person is in violation of the program if their home’s chimney emits visible smoke.”
Eugene-Springfield: GREEN – Burning is Allowed.
Oakridge: GREEN – Burning is Allowed.
*Note: Pellet stoves may be used anytime if they produce no visible emissions.
Data courtesy of Lane Regional Air Protection Agency (LRAPA)
I post the Home Wood Heating Advisory here on EDN at the end of my Eugene-Springfield forecast until the end of the College Football Season, then it will be found on my page called “Chuey’s Corner.” and it will look like the above graphic.
Here are some tips from LRAPA on how you can help “improve air quality:
1) Burn only dry seasoned wood.
2) Burn hardwoods, such as oak, madrone, and nut and fruit woods.
3) Limit kindling to fir pine and cedar, never burn softwoods like cottonwood and poplar.
4) Burn a small, hot fire.
5) NEVER burn garbage or treated/painted wood.
6) Leave your woodstove’s damper open.
7) Use alternative heat sources such as natural gas or electricity.
8) Check your chimney for smoke. The more smoke, the more pollution.
9) Clean your chimney regularly.”
Following all of these guidelines will produce safer conditions for your home heating and cleaner air for all of us to breathe. So it would be a good idea to keep checking the Home Wood Heating Advisory each day to make sure you are in compliance with the rules.
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