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Maricopa County: 'Burn Cleaner, Burn Better,' campaign aims to reduce smoke pollution

12/27/17

Tara Alatorre
Staff

PHOENIX- Maricopa County’s “Burn Cleaner, Burn Better,” campaign aims to improve air quality this year by issuing no-burn days county-wide, implementing a fireplace retrofit program to reduce smoke emissions, and offering vouchers towards the purchase of outdoor propane burning fire pits.

The county is aiming to reduce the amount of high pollution advisory days (HPA), which is when the highest concentrations of ozone and harmful particulate matter approach the federal health standard set by the Environmental Protection Agency.  The program encourages people to make voluntary efforts to limit activities that contribute to the air pollution through awareness and incentives to reduce harmful emissions caused by smoke, according to the campaign’s website operated by Maricopa County Air Quality Department.

Maricopa County’s campaign, “Burn Cleaner, Burn Better,” was launched in 2016, in partnership with Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, after the county was close to violating the federal health standard regarding air quality, said Bob Huhn, Maricopa County Air Quality Department’s Communication Supervisor.

“If we can cut the emissions from smoke, which in this case it is something we can control and the residents can help us with by abiding by the no-burn days, and also switching over to gas fire places,” Huhn said in an interview.  “That will not only help keep our air cleaner, but our residents healthier too.”

Tiny particles found in wood smoke known as particulate matter (PM) 2.5 pose health risks, especially to asthmatics, children and the elderly.  About 30 times smaller than a human hair, PM 2.5 can lower lung function when it is absorbed through the blood stream, according to AZDEQ’s Website.

The county is offering some Phoenix residents a free retrofit for their home’s wood burning fireplaces with a device that reduces the pollution emitted from the chimney similar to a catalytic converter. Or for homes that meet the installation requirements, the county will replace an indoor wood burning fireplace with natural gas log set, for free up to $2,000, Huhn said.

“It’s a program that started last year, and it was basically designed to reduce air pollution in specific neighborhoods first,” he said

In order to qualify for the free fireplace device that reduces emissions, or a free propane burning fireplace replacement, your home must fall within the boundaries set by the county, which is between Baseline Road and Northern Avenue, and 16th Street and 59th Avenue.

“The reason we chose those areas is because it is the highest concentration levels for smoke PM 2.5,” he said. “They are older homes there, which tend to have wood burning fireplaces."

The “Burn Better, Burn Cleaner” campaign has also partnered with Home Depot to offer $75 vouchers for new outdoor propane fire pits that are purchased at select Home Depot stores.  The vouchers are only available to the first 1,000 residents of Maricopa County who sign up online at cleanairmakemore.com.

Maricopa County has already given away 400 of the 1,000 vouchers available, so Huhn recommends signing up immediately if you are interested. He says they have also completed 215 fireplace retrofits since the program launched in 2016.

 The amount of residents participating in the program isn’t the only metric the county sees a success for the campaign; Maricopa County estimates the campaign has reduced PM 2.5 emissions by 43,125 pounds a year, and will only increase in time as retrofits are completed.

“We have improved the PM 2.5 situation a great deal, and there seems to be less usage of wood burning fire devices,” he said. “Last year was only the second time in the last four years that we didn’t have any exceedances [PM 2.5] on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day”

If you would like more information about signing up for the fireplace retrofitting or fire pit voucher programs please visit the Maricopa County Air Quality Department’s Website at www.cleanairmakemore.com