The Southeast Valley had a cold start to winter, allowing residents to don heavy coats and celebrate the holidays like we hear about in Christmas songs. The cold weather also caused many residents to start up the fireplace, even when the county had issued no-burn days.
The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality determines when air conditions could violate federal guidelines, prompting the Maricopa County Air Quality Department to issue a no-burn day.
The county may sound like Scrooge, but the ban on using fireplaces and outdoor pits on these days is a public-health issue. Cold weather can trap pollutants close to the ground, making it difficult to breathe. The situation is worse for people with asthma and other ailments, such as heart disease.
But the message is not getting through, making outreach more important than ever.
The air quality on New Year’s Day was the worst it has been in six years because of the mix of cold, stagnant air and no-burn violations. More than 550 complaints were made in 2010. Air-quality inspectors respond but must pinpoint from where the smoke is coming before issuing a warning or citation. That is not always easy to do.
Bottom line: As cozy as it is to cuddle by a fire on a cold night, it is not worth the public-health risks. Help others breathe better by calling 602-506-6400 or checking www.maricopa.gov/aq before starting a fire.