To burn, or not to burn – that is the question these days as quaint memories of hearth-lit Christmases past collide with new sensibilities about the potentially harmful proliferation of wood smoke.
For many with wood-burning fireplaces, the decision to light a fire over the Holidays is an easy one – a twice-a-year tradition with the family gathered around the hearth, wood snapping and popping. For others, neighbors lighting fires upwind of them inhibit their ability to draw a free breath, with the woodsmoke produced by such homes filling the air with particulates experts say spell trouble for residents suffering from respiratory problems.
Attempts to regulate the burning of wood in East Bay fireplaces has prompted admonitions, roving monitors looking for telltale chimney smoke and even fines from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. The issue has sparked an ongoing debate on the issue of air pollution and the rights of homeowners to heat their homes. The arguments pro and con have grown – hotter – as more attention is given to the issue.
Increased regulation, new building practices and improved home-heating technology has contributed to a general decline in the use of traditional fireplaces, though those who still have a wood-burning set up show little sign of giving them up, and many others expressing interest in acquiring a home with a traditional fireplace because of the cozy appeal many say a fire affords.
Will the wood-burning fireplace go the way of other quaint, but ultimately harmful household appliances and traditions which have died quiet deaths over the years? That remains to be seen, though many believe there is an effort afoot to make it happen. In the meantime, residents with fireplaces have been asked – and may soon be required – to light them only on certain days, in an effort to limit their overall use.
And today, in case you may be tempted to light your fire against the cold, is a burn day – the BAAQMD reports, so fireplace owners can burn without worry of official interference. For now.