Tooele Valley residents still have a clean slate in spite of a new state rule that banned wood burning on certain days this winter.
Communities throughout the Wasatch Front have experienced mandatory “no-burn days,” which mark periods of bad air quality and make burning solid fuels such as wood, coal and charcoal illegal, for the past several years.
This winter, the Utah Division of Air Quality expanded the no-burn rule to include the most populous parts of Tooele County.
The county had a total of 33 mandatory no-burn days and 30 voluntary no-burn days this past season, according to Jeff Coombs, deputy director for the Tooele County Health Department. For the same time period, the DAQ received one complaint about smoke, but did not issue any citations, said Bryce Bird, DAQ director.
However, Coombs, who oversees environmental health at the health department, said he does not believe that the lack of citations is indicative of Tooele Valley residents’ compliance with the rule. Rather, Coombs said he believes that a lack of awareness among locals was the primary factor.
Though the DAQ does patrol for violations on no-burn days, the number of staff the division can dedicate to patrolling is limited, Coombs said. Likewise, the health department itself could patrol the area and report violations to the DAQ, but the department does not have funding or staff to devote to such an effort, he said.
Consequently, enforcement of the rule falls on the residents themselves, who are asked to report offenders in their neighborhoods in an effort to clean up the local airshed.
The DAQ can declare any day between Nov. 1 and March 1 a no-burn day if particulate pollution builds to unhealthy levels. The use of wood fireplaces, wood stoves, pellet stoves, outdoor fireplaces or firepits, and grills is prohibited during these designated periods. Violators can be penalized with fines of up to $300.