Some wood-burning fireplaces OK

Dear Editor,
I am writing as the City of Gilroy’s Environmental Programs
Coordinator in response to a recent article about the Wood-burning
Ordinance that was approved by city council on March 7. I want to
clarify some information that appeared in a Dispatch article on
March 10 in regards to how the ordinance will affect new and
existing construction.
Dear Editor,

I am writing as the City of Gilroy’s Environmental Programs Coordinator in response to a recent article about the Wood-burning Ordinance that was approved by city council on March 7. I want to clarify some information that appeared in a Dispatch article on March 10 in regards to how the ordinance will affect new and existing construction.

In the article, it was explained that the Ordinance would ban wood-burning fireplaces in new homes. It is crucial that the community understand that this statement is incorrect. The new regulation does not ban wood burning, but rather requires that all newly installed fireplaces meet air quality standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency. Therefore, the ordinance does prohibit the construction of conventional open hearth masonry fireplaces, but allows EPA approved wood-burning appliances, including prefabricated wood-burning fireplaces, to be installed in newly constructed homes, businesses or remodels.

The city has developed a fact sheet on the Wood-burning Ordinance to provide accurate information by summarizing the goals, benefits and potential impacts to the community. The new ordinance prohibits the construction of conventional open hearth masonry fireplaces, but allows the following EPA approved appliances to be used in newly constructed homes, businesses, or during remodels:

n prefabricated wood-burning or gas fireplaces

n wood-burning or gas fireplace inserts

n wood-burning or gas stoves

n pellet stoves

This same requirement applies to gas fireplaces being converted to a wood-burning device. The ordinance does not affect the use of existing fireplaces, nor does it affect existing fireplaces undergoing minor remodeling except if the remodel involves changing the opening size or height of the existing fireplace. The ordinance does not apply to outdoor fireplaces and wood-burning appliances used specifically for food preparation.

During a “Spare the Air Tonight” warning from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, it shall be unlawful for any person to burn any indoor wood-burning appliance while the warning remains in effect.

Wintertime particulate pollution from wood smoke poses a significant health risk. When smoke particles are inhaled, they can travel deep into the lungs and remain trapped there for years, contributing to lung changes, chronic lung diseases and cancer.

The EPA has adopted a national standard for fine particles, known as PM2.5, which are particles 2.5 microns in diameter or less (or about 1/20th the diameter of a human hair) because of the known health risks from particulates.

In approving the ordinance, Gilroy has become one of 32 Bay Area cities that have adopted regulations to reduce wood smoke pollution.

The health and welfare benefits to the entire community of requiring the new, cleaner burning appliances are substantial. New appliances emit 90 percent less particulate pollution, resulting in cleaner air for Gilroy and all Bay Area residents and helps the Bay Area meet important air quality standards.

For more information, call Gilroy’s Environmental Programs Division at 846-0460. For more information about wood smoke pollution, contact the Bay Area Air Quality Management District at (415) 749-4900.

Lisa Jensema, City of Gilroy

Environmental Programs Coordinator

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