Partly cloudy over the weekend with highs in the mid-70s

Posted: Updated:

PHOENIX -- The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has issued a health watch for fine particulate matter pollution, which means Friday is the first no-burn day of the winter pollution season in Maricopa County.

Weather conditions have created an inversion layer. That happens when a  layer of warm air traps cold, dense air in lower lying areas like the Valley. The trapped air can't circulate, resulting in stagnant air masses that are visible as a hazy brown cloud hovering over the city.

According to DEQ, air monitoring data shows an increase of fine particulate pollution in our air.  Every day road traffic and industrial processes are tied to particulate matter pollution, but the biggest source is credited to fireplace burning activity.

“This isn’t a situation where Mother Nature is creating a wind storm that spreads dirt across the valley.  This type of pollution is something we can control,” states Air Quality Department Director Bill Wiley in a news release.  “It’s important each one of us does what we can do to protect our health.”

Particles of wood smoke are extremely small and therefore are not easily filtered out by the nose or the upper respiratory system. Instead, these small particles end up deep in the lungs.

The no-burn restriction will be in place through midnight.

When a no-burn day has been declared, people are not allowed to use wood-burning fireplaces, wood stoves or outdoor fire pits. That restriction includes restaurants and hotels.

In addition, Maricopa County residents are advised to use rakes or brooms instead of leaf blowers. In addition, if you can't avoid driving on unpaved roads or in vacant lots, you should go slowly to avoid kicking up dust.

Fines for violating no-burn day restrictions run from $50 to $250 depending the number of wood-burning violations an individual racks up.

For the latest wood-burning restrictions, call 602-506-6400. To report a violation, call 602-372-2703 or visit Maricopa.gov.