‘Merry Christmas!’ From Air District


By Patric Hedlund with reporting by Katy Penland and Gary Meyer

The Frazier Park area is no longer subject to the No-Burn Days imposed on Bakersfield or the San Joaquin Valley.

As we go to press, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD) is informing The Mountain Enterprise that Frazier Park—as of Wednesday, Dec. 24—has been officially assigned its own Air Quality Index. Brenda Turner, spokesperson for SJVAPCD, said, “A separate forecast for the greater Frazier Park area will now take effect.

This story was modified in the final minutes before press-time (also see story on this page “Frazier Park to Get Own Air Monitor).

The 1,721 signatures collected in four days on “No to No-Burn Day” petitions in Frazier Park had a nearly immediate impact on the governing board of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD) at its Thursday, Dec. 18 meeting.

The petitions were presented by Brian Bierman of Pinon Pines, who told the board that mountain residents are concerned about the financial burden and health risks of not being able to burn wood to stay warm.

No-burn alerts had been triggered by poor air quality in Bakersfield during the winter when there is an inversion layer in the valley. Chuck Woerner of Frazier Park presented data to the board about east-west wind currents in this region which appear to invalidate the premise that wood smoke in Frazier Park is contributing to Bakersfield’s pollution problems.

Led by Kern County Supervisor Ray Watson and air district Executive Director Seyed Sadredin, board members voted 8-2 to direct SJVAPCD staff to establish the Frazier Mountain region as a separate air control area.

Prior to October 16, 2008 there was an exemption from No-Burn Days for mountain areas above 3,000 feet, but in a 5-4 vote (with virtually no advance warning to the public) the board removed that exemption for all mountain regions within its jurisdiction. Watson cast the deciding vote in that October meeting.

The supervisor said in an interview Monday, Dec. 15 that he had not considered the east-west alignment of this region earlier. He said the petition also makes a good point regarding the economic hardships posed by the sudden ban on wood burning when families had saved all year to buy their wood to stay warm for the winter.

Homes heated by propane or without a natural gas heater are not covered by SJVAPCD’s No-Burn bans and may use wood-burning stoves and fireplaces.

Other mountain areas within the San Joaquin Valley district have a north-south alignment. Their smoke can pour into the valley. But they don’t have natural gas, so they are still exempt from the ban imposed in the valley areas of Kern County. Frazier Mountain is the only mountain region with natural gas, which had brought it under the lower valley’s No-Burn Day ban, despite the fact that wood smoke in this region is less likely to affect valley air quality.

An enforcement inspector has been on the mountain checking to see if there was “smoke coming from chimneys” on No-Burn days, SJVAPCD spokesperson Brenda Turner said in an interview the day of the meeting.

“There have been 23 [Bakersfield] no-burn days since the season started November 1,” Turner said, acknowledging that temperatures had fallen to as low as five degrees in the Frazier Mountain region during the recent snowstorms and that Frazier Park homeowners often use wood burning stoves “to take the chill off” even when they have natural gas heating.

“Three or four citations” have been written to Frazier Mountain residents since November 1, Turner reports, adding, “There is a $50 fine, or it can be contested. One can also attend an online ‘fire place school’ to waive the fine.” Those who do not have natural gas in their homes can fill out an exemption form if they receive a citation.

Several Frazier Park and Lake of the Woods residents were heard vowing to ignore the no-burn rule as they signed the “No to No-Burn Days” petition last week.

Turner said she did not expect a no-burn day to be called for the remainder of this week or through Christmas.

In addition to Chuck Woerner, Sondra Woerner and Brian Bierman, Charles Ahnfeldt (who sells firewood) and Frank Williams attended the December event, which was teleconferenced to the Bakersfield office of SJVAPCD. The board itself met at the agency’s headquarters in Fresno.

Frazier Park to Receive Its Own Air Monitor
San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District’s Brenda Turner told The Mountain Enterprise on Wednesday, Dec. 23 that Frazier Park will receive its own air monitor, hopefully by the end of January.

The statement came amidst an announcement that the Frazier Park area had officially been issued its own Air Quality Index.

Initially, Turner indicated that SJVAPCD would implement the new index based on historical data from an air monitor at Tejon Ranch. “How can data reflecting particulate matter from diesel emissions on Interstate 5 be applied to Frazier Park?” we asked.
“We’re looking for a separate site for permanent air monitors in Frazier Park,” Turner said.

Turner said the data they will use until Frazier Park’s monitors are installed shows historically low amounts of particulate matter for January and February.

Turner said SJVAPCD’s site will display air quality status updates separately for Frazier Park from now forward each day after 4:30 p.m.. Mountain residents can see each day’s “No-Burn” status by going to www.MountainEnterprise.com  and clicking the Air Quality link in the Community FYI section (down the left side of the page) and bookmarking it for future use. You can also check the daily No-Burn status in the Frazier Park area at the SJVAPCD’s  Air Quality Status page.

This is part of the December 19, 2008 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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