Maricopa County Seeks Ways to Enforce No-Burn Rule

Michelle Ye Hee Lee
Arizona Republic

Maricopa County is seeking public input on how to implement an air-quality rule that has polarized county residents for years.

For the past four years, Valley residents have violated the county’s no-burn rule around the holidays. The county declares no-burn days when weather conditions trap pollution close to the ground. Burning leaves, trash or wood, whether in a fireplace or outdoors, is prohibited on no-burn days.

Though many residents enjoy huddling around the fireplace on Christmas and New Year’s, holidays that typically are no-burn days, the no-burn rule protects residents who have asthma, lung disease or other health concerns, and it helps regulators avoid violations of federal air-quality standards.

The county on Wednesday will hold a public meeting for the first time to solicit citizen views on how to get the word out about no-burn days and how to best implement the policy in the Valley.

“I can understand how the ambience helps create the festive mood in your house. But then you take a look at a child or an adult that is having a really hard time just taking a breath of air because the air is so polluted, to me that’s a no-brainer,” said Holly Ward, Maricopa County Air Quality Department spokeswoman.

Smoke from wood-burning emits PM-2.5 dust particulates, which are so tiny that about 30 of them would make up the width of a human hair.

Although people can sneeze out larger particles, PM-2.5 particles settle in the lungs and cause health problems, especially for the elderly, children and those with asthma or lung or heart disease.

Records show that Maricopa County has exceeded federal PM-2.5 limits every year from 2007 to 2010 on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.

No-burn days apply specifically to residential wood-burning. There are some exceptions, including in cases in which the fireplace is a person’s sole source of heat.

The public meeting will be held 2 p.m. Wednesday at 1001 N. Central Ave., Suite 500.

Call 602-506-6713 or visit for more information.