The Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District (NSAQMD) has processed air quality results for the month of March in Portola, with only three days above NAAQS standards. National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) measure at 35 micrograms per cubic meter for particulate matter (PM2.5). “There were three days above the NAAQS standard at the beginning of the month when it was quite cold. There were no days of exceeding the standard in 2019 and 2020,” explained NSAQMD Air Pollution Control Specialist Julie Ruiz. “We recognize that wood stoves contributed more PM2.5 than expected.”
This is based on the low number of change-outs to new EPA certified heating devices over the past year, poor operation of stoves and poor-quality fuel such as wet or unseasoned wood. During the pandemic, the district suspects that there was higher usage of heating devices as adults and children spent more time in the home. There is also evidence that second homeowners in the area have been using their second homes, normally used for vacations, more during the past year as people have spent more time working from home. In the City of Portola, this translates into more wood being burned.
Much of the region is below 50 percent of normal precipitation for the rainy season. The months of April through July are expected to be warmer and drier than normal. Significant fire potential is normal through June and is expected to rise to above normal in July. Dead and dormant fuels at middle elevations where there is no snowpack or a new green grass crop will continue to be the most vulnerable during dry breezy conditions, per Northern California GACC, 4-1-21.
Clear the air- check before you light
The annual wintertime burning curtailment program ran from November 1, 2020 to February 28, 2021. The program
will resume November 1. Long Valley Charter School (LVCS) students and the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management
District (NSAQMD) raise a flag daily to notify the public of voluntary (yellow flag) and mandatory (orange flag) wood
burning restrictions. A green flag signifies good air quality and no restriction on burning in wood stoves and fireplaces.
During curtailment days, between the months of November to February, a wintertime health advisory is issued, and a health advisory posted on the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District website and on a recorded information line. From March through September, the colored flags in front of Long Valley Charter School are used when there are smoke impacts from wildfires. Suggested actions to protect health are described based on the flag color, known as the Air Quality Index (AQI).
To check your local air quality in real time, visit www.myairdistrict.com. For open burn day information, visit http://myairdistrict.com/index.php/burning-info/burn-day-status/ or call 832-4528. For smoke complaints and air quality concerns, call 832-0102.
Greater Portola wood stove change-out program
As of March 31, 543 applications have been received for the change-out program, 514 pre-approval letters have been sent out, and 430 installations have been completed. For more information about the program, contact Julie Ruiz at 832-0102.