Bega Valley Shire CouncilBega Valley Shire Council

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Keep warm breathe easy

Smoke haze cloaks the Bemboka township.20 June 2018

Bega Valley residents are being asked to help improve air quality this winter by checking that they are using their wood heaters correctly.

Council’s Environmental Health Cadet, Amanda McKenna, said during winter smoke from wood heaters can cause concerns for people with health conditions such as asthma, as well as the elderly and very young children. 

“These issues can be significantly aggravated by the incorrect operation of wood heaters,” Ms McKenna said.

“Smoky chimneys can be a real problem across the Shire during winter, with wood smoke from chimneys producing a haze that can become trapped over built up areas.

“On cold clear days, wood smoke particles from ineffective heaters float in the air and can be seen sitting over the Valley.

“We’re encouraging all residents with wood heaters to go outside and check their chimneys – ideally chimneys should not vent any smoke, just a heat haze.

“It’s the responsibility of all wood heater owners to follow the easy steps listed below and minimise the harmful effects of smoke pollution on their neighbours and the environment.” Ms McKenna said.

There are simple steps that can be taken to reduce pollution from wood heaters:

  • 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 8 – 12 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 - 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 creosote build-up.
  • If you are buying a wood heater, make sure it has a compliance plate showing it meets the Australian Standard (AS/NZS 4013:1999) and obtain the relevant Council approvals prior to installation.

Council staff will be providing individually targeted information this winter to operators of inefficiently operating wood heaters.

For more information on how you can help to reduce wood smoke pollution, contact Council or visit the NSW EPA’s website

Photograph: Smoke haze cloaks the Bemboka township.


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