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New wood-burning rules hardly effect county

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Posted: Thursday, October 30, 2003 10:00 pm

Lodi and the remainder of the San Joaquin Valley are likely to face only three days this winter in which they will not be allowed to use your fireplace or wood-burning stove.

The no-burn days are part of new regulations by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, which extends from San Joaquin County to Kern County. The new regulations begin Saturday.

"A lot of people sees those regulations and see that a right is being taken away," district spokesman Anthony Presto said. "It's not something they need to be fearful of."

Nevertheless, confusion has reigned over the new regulations, with some residents thinking they wouldn't be able to use their fireplaces or wood-burning stoves at all, said Brad Goehring, who sells firewood at his east Lodi ranch.

Customers asked Goehring and his business partner, Markus Bokisch, about the new regulations so often this year that they mailed a letter explaining the rules to 1,400 customers.

"It is our belief the expected curtailments for San Joaquin County will have little or no effect in regards to your wood-burning activity," Goehring and Bokisch said in their letter.

The Indian summer conditions that dominated October nearly caused Saturday to become a no-burn day, Presto said.

However, the breezy conditions on Wednesday and Thursday saved the day, thereby allowing residents to use their fireplaces over the weekend, Presto said.

As one goes farther south in the Valley, the number of no-burn days increases. Modesto is expected to have about six no-burn days, while Fresno and Bakersfield, with their more stagnant air, will have about 25 no-burn days between November and February, Presto said.

As long as it's raining or you feel some wind, you can burn firewood to your heart's content, Presto said. But if the area is hit with tule fog for a few days, chances are that the no-burn days will kick in, he said.

Fog isn't needed to produce no-burn days, Presto said. Just stale air, he said.

The new regulations taking effect this year are intended to reduce asthma and heart problems, Presto said. There's a good chance that in populated areas, someone who lives near you has asthma and a heart condition. Breathing wood on a smoggy day reduces lung function, which in turn causes the heart to beat with greater difficulty, Presto said.

People exempt from the no-burn regulations include people who have no other means of heating their homes, live at 3,000-foot elevation or higher and areas where natural gas and propane service are not available, according to the Air Pollution Control District.

District officials will only be able to inform residents whether the next day is a no-burn day, Presto said. That notice will only be available in the late-afternoon.

For more information, call (800) SMOG-INFO or see the Web site at www.valleyair.org.

This story was updated at 8 a.m. Nov. 4, 2003, to correct the address of the Web site.

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