Top Tips for Cleaner Fireplace
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Every year, starting in
in the fall, the District receives complaints from people oncerned about breathing smoke from their neighbors’ fires. Sometimes people are not even aware that
they have been causing anyone discomfort. The District has found that many
people are willing to adjust their burn
times or contact their neighbors before burning so they can
close some windows—IF they know their smoke is affecting
someone. If you are being affected by a dirty fireplace visit
this page about the complaint process.
When you make a fireplace fire, first, check out our tips
to minimize your smoke. Then, take a walk outside. Look and
see where your smoke is going. If your smoke is headed
towards a neighbor's house, knock on their door. Ask if your
smoke is bothering them and let them know they can call you
if it does in the future. Usually two neighbors can work out
a solution that works for both—but only if they are aware
and talk. Be a good neighbor. (For information on District's
role with fireplace burning see section
Breathing wood smoke reduces lung function, aggravates heart and lung
diseases, and can trigger asthma. Take some of the steps below for the sake of
your health and safety—and that of your neighbors. Another danger during the winter months is carbon
monoxide poisoning. See
for more information.
- Don’t burn trash. Don’t burn: plastics, chemicals,
wrapping paper, magazines, or colored or coated papers (including newspaper
inserts, junk mail, etc.). Also don’t burn charcoal, coal, or holiday greens.
Burning trash can cause toxic chemicals to go into the air, and into your
- Be a good neighbor and notice your smoke. Build small
hot fires rather than large smoldering ones. Use dry, seasoned hard woods.
Hard woods provide more heat and they are denser so they burn more slowly
and evenly, producing less smoke. Avoid "roaring" fires. They can
start chimney fires and can lead to overheating of wall or roof materials.
- Save your fireplace or woodstove for special occasions.
Fireplace fires are not a very efficient way to produce heat. The safest way
to heat your home, and the cleanest for the air, is through a central
- Use a gas log if you can. Never burn wood in a
fireplace that was designed for a gas log. Decorative fireplaces are not built to handle wood
fires. Burning wood in one of these fireplaces is asking for trouble, and
could create a dangerous situation.
- Clean your chimney. How long has it been since your chimney was cleaned? A
dirty chimney full of creosote is a chimney fire waiting to happen. Schedule
regular maintenance by a professional chimney sweep.
- Never use gasoline, charcoal lighter or other fuel to light or
relight a fire because the vapors can explode. Never keep flammable
fuels near a fire. Vapors can travel the length of a room and explode.
- Do not allow small children near the fireplace. Keep
children away from the fire. Their clothing can easily ignite. Warn the entire
family about this hazard. Warn children about the danger of fire, never let
them play with fire, and review with them the “Stop-Drop-and Roll” drill they
learned in school.
- Never leave a fire unattended. Make sure the fire is
completely out before going to bed or leaving the house.
- Be sure no flammable materials hang down from or decorate your
mantel. A spark from your fireplace could ignite these materials and
cause a fire. Keep flammable and combustible materials such as carpets,
pillows, furniture or papers, logs and kindling at least 3 feet away from the
fireplace area. Be sure the Christmas tree is not close enough to be ignited
by a spark. Keep the area near the fireplace clear of materials like papers,
books, toys, etc.
- Make sure you have basic fire safety equipment. Keep a
type ABC extinguisher near the fireplace, install a screen that
covers the fireplace opening, equip your house with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and use a spark arrester on top of your chimney.
The District has not adopted any rules or regulations to ban or limit
the burning of wood or other solid fuels in a fireplace, wood stove, or
other wood-burning device. However, wood-burning appliances and fireplaces in
homes and restaurants may be the cause of public nuisance complaints.
The California Health and Safety Code and District regulations
(including Rule 303, Nuisance) prohibit emissions of air
contaminants that cause nuisance or annoyance to a considerable number
of people, or that present a threat to public health, or damage to
property. If complaints are received, District inspectors will
investigate to determine compliance with Rule 303. To avoid the
potential for a nuisance situation to occur, we recommend that new
construction projects consider limiting wood-burning appliance and
fireplace installation and install natural gas-fueled appliances and
fireplaces in areas where nearby residents could be affected
For more information, see the
Environmental Protection Agency BurnWise site. Also see Smoke
and our Health on this
website, or download the California Air Resources Board "Wood Burning Handbook"
(PDF file) here:
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