“In the Truckee Meadows, wood burning accounts for nearly 50 percent of wintertime fine particulate matter,” AQMD Director Kevin Dick said. “The purpose of the Green, Yellow, Red Burn Code Program is to reduce these harmful emissions.”
The program is in effect from November through February and applies to southern Washoe County from Washoe Valley to Cold Springs. The code addresses all solid fuels, including wood, pellets, fire logs and coal.
The burn code provides the following information:
Green — When the Air Quality Index (AQI) is in the good or low moderate range, the Burn Code is Green and that means it is OK to light a fire in your stove or fireplace.
Yellow — When the AQI reaches the upper end of the moderate range, or if weather conditions exist that are expected to lead to deteriorating air quality, the burn code switches to Yellow. This is a voluntary stage when citizens are requested to stop burning.
“While the Yellow Code is voluntary, cooperating to curtail wood burning at this point may be the most important action one can take to help our community avoid reaching unhealthful levels of air pollution,” Dick said.
Red — When the AQI becomes unhealthful for sensitive groups (exceeds 100), all residential and commercial burning must stop immediately. If weather forecasts show little chance of the temperature inversion lifting, the district health officer will call a Stage 1 Episode, prohibiting burning for 24 hours or until weather patterns change and the pollution levels decrease.
“It’s everyone’s responsibility to know what the daily Burn Code is before they light their stoves or fireplaces,” Dick said. “And it’s easy enough to do by calling the Air Quality Hotline at 785-4110.”
Washoe County residents can also get a daily air quality update by listening to television and radio weather forecasts; by checking the Reno-Gazette Journal’s weather page; or, by visiting the AQMD website at www.washoecounty.us/health. In 2010-2011, only one Red Burn Code was issued (Jan. 8, 2011). In the winter of 2009-2010, the AQMD issued 10 Red Burn Codes.
For more information on the Green, Yellow, Red Burn Code Program, such as the health risks associated with breathing fine particulate matter such as wood smoke, and how the burn code is enforced, visit the AQMD page on the Health District website at www.washoecounty.us/health.