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Residents urged to help clear the air this winter

Armidale Regional Council is urging residents to help reduce air pollution by following nine simple steps to improve air quality this winter.

Checking firewood heaters, chimneys and the quality of the firewood people use are just some of the actions residents can take to help improve the quality of air over the winter months.

With the temperature dropping, residents are urged to clean their chimney of any build-up of creosote and collect or purchase good quality aged hardwood before using wood fire heaters.

According to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA), on colder days woodsmoke particles from inefficient heaters float in the air and can be seen as a smoke haze that sometimes sits over built up areas.

“Woodsmoke can cause breathing difficulties, especially for people suffering existing respiratory conditions, such as asthmatics, and for very young children and older people. There is also evidence that smoke pollution can cause cardiac problems,” according to the EPA site.

Mayor Sam Coupland said on some nights in winter a blanket of wood smoke covers parts of Armidale due to the large number of households using wood heaters paired with the geography of the area.

“Much of Armidale sits in a valley and smoke can become trapped in specific conditions such as when there is low wind speed and inversion layers,” said Mayor Coupland.

“But we can all work together by following some simple, recommended steps to make sure we improve the quality of our air over winter.”

Some simple steps to reduce woodsmoke pollution are:

  • Don’t let your heater smoulder overnight – keep enough air in the fire to maintain a flame.
  • Burn only dry, aged hardwood in your wood heater. Unseasoned wood has lots of moisture, which causes a fire to smoke.
  • Store your wood under cover in a dry, ventilated area. Freshly cut wood needs to be stored for at least eight to twelve months.
  • Never burn rubbish, driftwood or painted or treated wood. These are sure to pollute the air and can produce poisonous gases.
  • When lighting a cold heater, use plenty of dry kindling to establish a good fire quickly.
  • Use several small logs rather than one large log and stack them loosely in your heater, so air can circulate around them. Don’t cram the firebox full.
  • Keep the flame lively and bright. Your fire should only smoke when you first light it and when you add extra fuel. Open the air controls fully for 5 minutes before and 15 to 20 minutes after reloading the heater.
  • Check your chimney regularly to see how well your fire is burning. If there is smoke coming from the chimney, increase the air supply to your fire.
  • Have the chimney cleaned every year to prevent build-up.

It’s the responsibility of all wood heater owners to follow these easy steps and minimise the harmful effects of smoke pollution on their neighbours and the community.

Council has installed air monitors with real time results able to be viewed via the Purple Air website.

The EPA also has some excellent information about reducing woodsmoke emissions.

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