Ban on outdoor yard waste fires keeps Auburn backyard leaf burns on hold

Air pollution, fire concerns work against incineration of residential yard waste
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Unusually dry and warmer than normal, early winter weather in the foothills has caused the Placer County Air Pollution Control District to ban outdoor burning since mid-December. But relief is possibly on the horizon, with a change in the weather and the possibility of rain by the end of next week. For Auburn-area residents with a goodly supply of leaves and branches built up and ready for burning, the long delay has led to complaints to both fire and air pollution control authorities. Ann Hobbs, air quality specialist, said that the district has put in place a steady string of no-burn days since Dec. 16 because smoke is not dispersing the way it normally would at this time of year. Smoke will drift up but then will start spreading outward as an inversion layer traps it, Hobbs said. With no way to keep moving upward, the smoke and sooty particles slowly drift downward again. “This is highly unusual,” Hobbs said. “But the National Weather Service forecast is indicating a breakdown in high pressure and the expectation that rain will return. With the change, we’ll start to see burn days again.” Hobbs said a potential window for burning had opened last Saturday but Cal Fire closed it because strong north winds heated up the fire danger. Kathy Hoxsie, meteorologist with the National Weather Service Sacramento office, said Thursday that the unusual stretch of dry, sunny weather has resulted in temperatures reaching 60 degrees or more in each of the first 12 days of January. Computer modeling through late next week indicates a Gulf of Alaska storm could result in measurable precipitation Thursday or Friday, Hoxsie said. Auburn Fire Chief Mark D’Ambrogi said people used to burning leaves and other allowed garden waste are impatient to start backyard fires. Normally, the fire department would be handling its share of complaints from the public about neighbors and doing possible illegal burning or creating too much smoke, D’Ambrogi said. “But people are now complaining about not being able to burn,” D’Ambrogi said. “They don’t understand the air-quality situation.” To find out daily if it is a burn day, residents who are within 12 miles of Auburn can call (530) 889-6868. For residents outside of the area, a toll-free number – (800)998-2876 – is also available to people calling from a Placer County landline. Burning pointers - Check with your local fire agency for any burn permit requirements - Tarp your burn pile to keep it dry before it rains - Burn only when smoke is not impacting your neighbors - Burn only dry vegetation, free from dirt - Maintain a 10-foot clearance of flammable materials from around your burn pile - Never use flammable materials such as gasoline to start a fire - The fire must be attended by a responsible adult at all times - Maintain a source of water and a long-handled shovel close by Source: Placer County Air Pollution Control District