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Smoke could lead to a hefty fine

Are there restrictions on using wood-burning stoves during times of inversions and heavy air pollution? Currently, the air is obviously polluted, but there are many people in Ashland and the surrounding areas who continue to burn wood stoves, adding to the choking pollution. Is this legal?

— Betsy Smith, Ashland

It's not, Betsy, and we're not just blowing smoke.

When the air gets bad, smoke from woodstoves can make the foul weather even more foul. Because of that, the Jackson County Wood Stove and Open Burning Program developed a wood-burning advisory. Days are designated as either green, yellow or red days, based on the levels of fine particulate pollution trapped in the air.

If it's a green day, burning is allowed in noncertified and certified wood stoves and fireplaces. If it's a yellow or red day, no burning is allowed in noncertified stoves for a 24-hour period, and no visible smoke should be produced from certified ones. You can find out the daily advisories by calling 541-776-9000.

The citation for burning on nonburn days is a fee that can be as high as $600, Jackson County Environmental Health officials tell us.

Certified wood stoves were manufactured after 1985 and has an Oregon Department of Environmental Quality of Environmental Protection Agency sticker affixed to it. However, exemptions are allowed, either because of economic or special needs. Additional information is available at 541-774-8207, where you also can call to file a complaint.

Now, if you want to give your pesky neighbors a few tips on reducing the smoke, we have those for you, too.

Burning small, hot fires with good oxygen flow to fuel the flames will help. Burning dry wood will also reduce the smoke, as will avoiding the burning of garbage-like Christmas wrapping, plastic bags and junk mail.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com.