PHOENIX (AP) -- Air quality regulators are banning wood burning in Maricopa County on Monday because of high levels of pollutants already in the air.
The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality issued a high pollution health watch alert because levels of small particles in the air are expected to be at unhealthful levels for the fourth day in a row.
Shortly before 2 p.m, ADEQ extended that ban on wood burning through Tuesday.
"Residents are asked to refrain from lighting a wood burning fire, or burning leaves, trash and other materials during the restriction period," the news release said. "This restriction includes individuals and businesses that have burn permits for open burning. Chestnuts roasting by an open, Environmental Protection Agency approved woodburning device, is allowed."
Open burning and use of wood burning fireplaces are generally prohibited. People with respiratory problems are advised to avoid heavy or prolonged outdoor exertion.
Maricopa County air quality officials say they know the mandatory restrictions may put a crimp in Christmas Eve celebrations. But director Bill Wiley says fires also fill neighborhoods with smoke and make breathing hard for some people.
"We at Maricopa County Air Quality know how enjoyable a cozy fire can be, especially during the holidays," he said. "However, with the increased fireplace and outdoor fire activity during this time, our air is unhealthy and will affect many residents. Please consider using an alternative such as gas fireplaces, gas stoves and pellet stoves. These are better for the air – and for your lungs."
To learn more, including exactly what is restricted during a no burn day, visit CleanAirMakeMore.com.