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Air quality agency issues Southland no-burn alert

November 24, 2012 |  7:46 pm

Much of Los Angeles is being asked to hold off lighting wood-burning fireplaces or open pits starting at midnight Saturday and continuing for 24 hours to avoid releasing unhealthy soot that becomes trapped in the air by a wintertime weather pattern.

The first-ever no-burn alert comes with a $50 fine for first-time residential violators and applies to the downtown area, West Hollywood, Burbank and much of the eastern San Fernando Valley.

It's part of a new program adopted by the South Coast Air Quality Management District to cut down on the release of harmful wood smoke, said Sam Atwood, an agency spokesman. The air pollution regulator expects about 10 to 15 alerts each year, Atwood said.

"Over 1 million homes actively use fireplaces to burn wood in Los Angeles,'' he said. "That results in four times the particulate pollution created by all of the power plants in the basin."

National Weather Service forecasters are predicting an inversion layer that traps fine particulates under dense fog, he said. That condition, combined with mild Santa Ana winds, triggered the alert, Atwood said.

Residents can enter their ZIP Code at www.aqmd.gov/noburn to see if they live in an area affected by the alert. They can also sign up for daily air-quality reports at www.airalerts.org.

Alerts are called whenever fine particulate levels are expected to rise to levels unhealthful for sensitive groups such as those with respiratory illnesses, Atwood said.

In addition to paying the first-time fine of $50, violators could be required to attend a wood-smoke awareness session. Fines rise for each repeat violation up to $500. To report a suspected violation, call (800) CUT-SMOG.


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-- Catherine Saillant