Find out Who Serves as the Fireplace Police

We're told not to burn wood on certain days. But what if we do?

Do you use your fireplace on no-burn days? Photo courtesy of Lennox Villa Vista Fireplace.
Do you use your fireplace on no-burn days? Photo courtesy of Lennox Villa Vista Fireplace.

The South Coast Air Quality District has declared two no-burn days in the last two weeks, meaning you can’t burn wood or manufactured logs in your fireplace.

But what happens if you do? And who reports you? These are the questions Patch readers have been asking. And finally, we have an answer for you from Sam Atwood, district media relations manager:

In terms of SCAQMD’s enforcement policy, field inspectors will not be conducting focused inspections to actively look for residences where wood burning is occurring. However inspectors will attempt to respond to complaints from residents of suspected wood burning at residences during no-burn alert days.

“SCAQMD inspectors will not enter homes or property of alleged violators. If an inspector cannot document a violation, educational materials will be sent to the property that was reported to have burned wood in a residential fireplace on a no-burn day. If a violation is documented, a letter will be sent to the resident. For the first violation, the resident has an option of completing a smoke-awareness class that can be completed online or through the mail, or pay a penalty of $50. Educational materials on the health impacts of burning wood will also be included in these letters.”

Now you know!


Donna Fleming December 24, 2013 at 12:55 AM
Many people think we have too much government control. We need less government, not more. We could cut the budget by 1/2 if we got rid of government employees. For example, in California, teachers=260,806, admin 269,531 so we have 103.3 administrators for every educator. We cut the administrators by 50%. We need teachers, not one to one administrators. And, I am not going to debate this with you Shelly, we do not need Scaqmd to be watching people burning wood in a fireplace. We cut them by 1/2. They need to be looking for companies like Chevron who are contaminating our water supply. And, for Automotive shops who dump chemicals into our drains. The fireplace emission control is absurd. They need to be checking for Sanonofre leaks.
Donna Fleming December 24, 2013 at 01:06 AM
Gus.... you are right. I have not received a water bill in two months. We were notified on Patch that the bills would be late. They have not mailed the illegal bills as they are liable for mail fraud violations for mailing bills that are illegal. Tonight, the day before Christmas eve, I had a turn off notice on my front door from the city of SJC for a past due water bill for 238.00. I never received a bill. So I cannot review it. And, the notice says their office will be closed until Jan 3. This is their way of getting around the mail fraud issue. They probably owe me 5000 in over billing and they are threatening me with shut off. Merry Christmas SJC water company. Recall Allevato.
Matthew Keune December 24, 2013 at 01:20 AM
Donna, I've recieved bills for the last 2 months at my house. Maybe they ran out of stamps and couldn't send yours.
Donna Fleming December 24, 2013 at 01:25 AM
No, I have been watching for it. And, I made a comment when the judgement first came out to the effect that if the water department knowingly mailed out illegal bills they could be prosecuted for mail fraud. I have not received a bill for 2 months. The note said I can drop it in a drop box, but I have no bill. I cannot check what I was billed for. They want 238.00 or will shut off the water and charge me fees. I need an attorney.
Don_SJC December 24, 2013 at 01:37 AM
The foil hat types are really out tonight. Donna, as I tried to point out to you earlier, you can get copies of your water bills on-line. I realize this may be a challenge to someone who still uses Mapquest but you do manage to navigate your way to the Patch so I think you can handle it. Here's the link https://ewater.sanjuancapistrano.org/Home.aspx
Donna Fleming December 24, 2013 at 02:17 AM
Don...you work for the city don't you? And, you are a member of San Juan Cares. Mr. Sarcasm, you should proof your flyers before you mail them. All that money spent to create flyers to keep Sam. "Do Not sign the recall." You are part of that group. You are so smart but you didn't even proof the flyers. In fact you could be the Don of San Juan, Mr. Allevato himself.
Gus Gunderson December 24, 2013 at 02:34 AM
Donna, the link he provided only went to the announcement of the past water forum. Nothing for getting a copy of a water bill. Don_juan tin foul hat must have been wrapped just a little too tight.
Don_SJC December 24, 2013 at 02:39 AM
Wrong on all counts Donna. But speaking of intelligence you finally posted details on your "outrageously" large water bill. Let's take a look. If you have a turn-off notice then you must have at least three unpaid bills. If the total amount owed is $238 then each of those three bills is roughly $80 (and that includes sewer charges!). That doesn't sound so large. Why are you upset about your water billing again? And could you share the math behind your calculation that you are owed $5000 in overbilling?
Don_SJC December 24, 2013 at 02:46 AM
OK Gus, work with me here ... look at the bottom right hand corner of that page. See where the key is and it says "Login"? Click on that word. On the next page click on the word "Register". I feel like I am helping my grandfather with his computer here ... you people are not doing CCS proud tonight. Time to go to bed.
quercus December 24, 2013 at 11:10 AM
If you are in the enlightened north, no Yule log for you. ..................................... http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2013/12/23/bay-area-spare-the-air-alert-on-christmas-eve-wood-burning-banned/
Donna Fleming December 24, 2013 at 11:46 AM
Don.... I have not received a bill in a couple of months. NO Bill. I was advised that the bills would be late due to the restructuring of the billing and court order. For personal reasons I do not pay bills on line. I still do not understand the stupid bills. Water use charge varies $60-40 dollara a month. Water Service chge is 18.00 every month. And, bacic tier usage is 6 ccf @ 2.91 These charges are not for water. So the fees and service charges are part of the gw fees. So averaging it out, SJC water probably owes me 2520.00 plus penaties and inters for the last 3 years in fees and service chages which are not part of the water I use.
Matthew Keune December 24, 2013 at 12:25 PM
Donna...You can lookup your bill online if you didn't receive one. Then go down to City hall and pay it. This will prevent your water from being shut off.
Gus Gunderson December 24, 2013 at 03:01 PM
This should be interesting. The City charges illegal water rates. She does not receive a couple of water bills in the mail. Now the City has given this resident notice that they are going to shut her water off as she has not paid the illegal water rates. Talk about holding a figuratively speaking a gun to ones head to force them to pay for a service that a judge has ruled illegal. If the city chooses to turn the water off, they are going to have quite a public relations problem.
Matthew Keune December 24, 2013 at 03:33 PM
Gus... I highly doubt they would care. I'm sure they would say they sent it out.
Don_SJC December 24, 2013 at 05:09 PM
Donna, when you criticize something that you haven't taken the time or bother to try to understand you undermine your credibility. You admit you don't understand your water bill and you state that you don't think the basic tier charges are for water you have used. You are wrong. Those are the first 6 units of water that you use in a billing period so if you think that you are due a refund for water use in that basic tier based on the recent court ruling you are flat out wrong. Based on the charges you posted above, guess what? You wouldn't be getting any refund. You don't use enough water. You aren't using the tier 3 and 4 billed water. The refund would go to those who are charged for water in those highest, most expensive, tiers. In fact, as I explained some time ago, the water billing is a zero sum game. Either heavy users will subsidize light users (like we have now) or light users will subsidize heavy users (this is what the CTA folks want). Only in la la fairyland can you have it both ways. In other words you have been fighting these past few months for an INCREASE in your water bill and a refund to people OTHER THAN YOU which will just require the City to raise taxes or water rates for light users like you. WAKE UP AND START TO THINK ABOUT THINGS!
Gus Gunderson December 24, 2013 at 05:33 PM
Please show me exactly Don SJC where it states that regarding tier 3 & 4 in the final court decision. You can't, because it does not exist. The Final Court Decision dated August 28, 2013 states on page four of seven pages: " CTA has no quarrel with respect to the new rates under Tier One but argues that in substantially raising water rates under Tiers 2, 3, and 4, the City failed to provide any evidence to justify the new rates as required by Proposition 218. Proposition 218 further states: "In any legal action contesting the validity of a fee or charge, the burden shall be on the agency to demonstrate compliance with this article." The Court plainly ruled any water tier after the first tier is an illegal water rate charge by the city. It is right there is the final court decision. The court also ruled in the same document that charging residents for recycled water it did not receive, is illegal too. I took the time to pay for and download the final court decision, which anyone can do to better educate myself. Nowhere in the final court decision does it state anything close to what Don SJC is stating.
Gus Gunderson December 24, 2013 at 05:35 PM
Don SJC it is unfortunate that you feel a need to spew misinformation. It is best to go to the facts before you again make yourself look silly.
Don_SJC December 24, 2013 at 06:25 PM
So Gus, based on your reading of the opinion please inform us all what is going to happen if the court ordered refund and new water billing that is compliant with that court ruling is put into effect for users who only currently incur basic and tier 1 charges? The court rejected the argument regarding the bond charges so how much of the service charge is really subject to a refund based on the recycled water issue?
Gus Gunderson December 24, 2013 at 07:27 PM
Don_Sjc, that is dependent on the city council and what they choose to do in relation to the 30 million dollar claim plus damages and attorney fees in addition to the Ground Water Recovery Plant that is not performing. To many variables in there to tell you what is going to happen. I am so glad that you asked about the bond issue. The vast majority of the monies that were to be used from the Phantom Bond proceeds were to fund recycled water projects. The vast majority of those proceeds including interest will need to be refunded back to the water users as the judge ruled the residents cannot be charged for anything connected to recycled water. In closing, the vast majority of that bond plus interest will need to be refunded to the residents.
Gus Gunderson December 24, 2013 at 07:33 PM
Don SJC you can go ahead and believe the mailer that friends of Sam Allevato sent out to "vote no on Recal" (yes, that is how they spelled it), keep in mind that Sam Allevato has lost every single lawsuit and every single appeal and the City now has a court order against it for the news racks thanks to Sam Allevato, I choose to follow what the court order states.
Donna Fleming December 24, 2013 at 07:38 PM
The water bills I located were the bills issued after, I turned off my irrigation system. The fees seem to stay static. As I understand it the fees (were objected to by the judge), as we are paying for something we have never received.
shelly December 27, 2013 at 07:33 PM
Donna, On an earlier comment board you stated your bill was $127. I will find the comment. Which is it? $252 or $127? We have received water bills. But this comment board was about particulates in the air. I was out at the beach today and the view of Catalina was obscured by a thick brown layer of fog. Do you not believe air quality should be monitored?
shelly December 27, 2013 at 07:34 PM
Gus Gunderson, Do you not believe air quality should be monitored? If the particulates in the air are high what should we do? Ignore it or be responsible citizens?
Donna Fleming December 27, 2013 at 11:01 PM
No, I do not think we need to pay, yet another government agency to monitor the particulates in the air here in southern California. The EPA should be monitoring our coast line for evidence of Radio active contamination from the spill in Japan. That would be worth knowing about.
shelly December 28, 2013 at 09:32 AM
Donna, http://www.aqmd.gov/legal/legalaut.html It may not be a health concern to you but it is to others. "Why do we need “Healthy Hearths”? The Healthy Hearths initiative was created to reduce pollution and protect public health from the harmful emissions of wood burning. Despite steady progress toward improved air quality, Southern California still has the worst pollution in the country. This could result in about 5,000 premature deaths each year in this region. From switching to electric lawnmowers to using your fireplace responsibly, every small step toward cleaner air will help protect your respiratory health. So take part in Healthy Hearths and help Southern California in these ways: Reduce Pollution Caused by Wood Burning Wood burning creates an average of 5 tons of harmful PM2.5 emissions per day in the South Coast Air Basin. That’s four times the amount of PM2.5 emitted from all of the power plants in the area! And it’s even worse in the winter, when wood burning is at its peak. From November through February, pollution from wood burning has been estimated to cause more than 10 tons per day of PM2.5 emissions. Since November 1, 2011, wood burning has been prohibited during winter months (November through the end of February) in specific areas where PM2.5 is forecast to reach unhealthy levels. Although the Healthy Hearths initiative only prohibits wood-burning devices in new homes, those who own existing homes can burn cleaner too. There are plenty of wood-burning alternatives and resources to help you switch to cleaner burning gas log sets. Reduce Health Risks Caused by Wood Burning Pollution from wood smoke contains very small particles known as PM2.5. These particles are 2.5 microns in diameter – that’s 1/30th the width of a human hair! Because it’s so small, PM2.5 can lodge deep in the lungs and cause a variety of respiratory health problems. Long-term exposure to PM2.5 can lead to reduced lung function and chronic bronchitis. In some cases, prolonged exposure to this harmful substance may even lead to premature death. Short-term exposure can make existing respiratory conditions such as asthma or lung disease worse. It may also increase the risk of respiratory infections, and those with heart disease could even be at risk for heart attacks or arrhythmias. Young children and the elderly are especially vulnerable to the effects of PM2.5. " https://www.aqmd.gov/healthyhearths/Why_HH.htm
shelly December 28, 2013 at 09:37 AM
Here is the history of the AQMD and the SCQMD. It has been around for a long time, and we have all benefited.
K January 11, 2014 at 12:26 PM
From my experience in reporting air quality issues to SCAQMD, it appears to be just another bureaucracy. After almost a year of filing online complaints due to non compliance from a particular offender, NOTHING has changed. I'm always told to just keep reporting it. The field inspector has informed me that he's driven through the neighborhood (usually the morning after the complaint has been issued) and of course, by then, there is no evidence of smoke. There's a major disconnect with SCAQMD and local enforcement and most likely, another waste of taxpayer dollars.
Stan Jacobs February 18, 2014 at 11:29 AM
We are burdened by this heavy handed approach of having our lives micromanaged due to Chinese smog drifting onto our shores.
Donna Fleming February 18, 2014 at 12:37 PM
The original notice said, we could burn firewood if we used it for heat.
bill browne February 23, 2014 at 11:12 AM
I agree pollution is a problem. that being said, I find it interesting the EPA after all these years is getting involved in fire places. I also think its noteworthy there no tax on wood. That's what I see coming. tax wood to pay for pollution enforcement. same scam as the water recycling program in a different color.


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