PHOENIX (AP) — The pollution that obscures portions of metro Phoenix's skyline during the holiday season has prompted environmental regulators to bar people from using wood-burning fireplaces and fire pits through Christmas day.
No-burn days have been called on Saturday through Tuesday because air pollution levels are expected to either approach or exceed federal health standards. Violators run the risk of being ticketed. Gas and electric heaters are allowed.
Over the years, such restrictions have been ordered in metro Phoenix during the holidays when stagnant air and winter temperature inversions trap pollution close to the ground.
As many as 10 inspectors will respond to complaints of wood burning. First-time violators will get warnings, while homeowners who are repeat offenders can face fines up to $250 per violation.
"We prefer not to fine folks," said Bob Huhn, a spokesman for county environmental regulators. "We want to educate folks on the effects on their neighbors."
Smoke and soot from wood-burning pose risks to people with asthma and other respiratory ailments.
Fireworks use during the holiday is legal. But authorities are urging people to avoid using them, saying they produce lots of ground-level smoke.
Sustained winds and rain could break up the pollution, but the light winds forecast for Saturday through Monday aren't expected to lessen the brown cloud hanging over the metro area. The forecast for Tuesday calls for breezier conditions and a 20 percent chance of rain.
South and west Phoenix, where pollutant levels during the holidays have traditionally been high, are areas of concern for regulators. Both areas have old homes that tend to have wood-burning fireplaces, and holiday bonfires are popular in some neighborhoods there.