Dear Monica: Whenever I am outside and I smell woodsmoke from someone’s fireplace, I immediately think of the terrible fires we have had in California and wonder why someone is polluting the air when we just got rid of all the smoke. What are the rules about burning wood in your fireplace? Virginia C.
Dear Virginia: The horrendous fires of the past few years in California have changed people’s minds about smoke. The romantic allure of wood fire in the fireplace used to seem cozy and attractive but this attitude has changed considerably. This year, when the Paradise fire brought days of unhealthy air to the region, many people began to rethink the recreational value of a wood fire.
Many cities in California have disallowed wood burning fireplaces in new construction for several years. Older buildings that have them have been allowed to use them, but often if a major repair is needed to the flue or firebox, the city won’t issue a permit to fix it. In addition we have more Spare the Air days when no burning of particulate matter is allowed unless the fire is the only source of heat for a building. Gas fires, however, are allowed and these have little or no effect on air quality.