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County official: Holiday season likely to result in reduced air quality

PHOENIX — The holiday season can also be a season for poor air quality in the Valley.

During an appearance on KTAR’s Arizona’s Morning News weekend show, Maricopa County Air Quality Department Public Information Officer Bob Huhn said the amount of smoke in the air is likely to increase this time of year.

“Sometimes the concentration levels of the smoke are borderlining the health standards,” he said. “That means it gets dangerous for sensitive folks, people who might have asthma, and elderly who might have
respiratory issues.”

That’s why the Maricopa County Department of Public Health is starting its second annual no-burn campaign this week.

“The no-burn campaign is basically to let folks no that on no-burn days, please don’t burn wood,” Huhn said.

“There are other alternatives. You can use gas fireplaces and so on.”

With the holidays coming in the middle of the week this year, Huhn said an exceptionally high amount of burning will take place.

“Christmas Eve will be on a Wednesday,” he said, “so a lot of people will have fireplaces going Wednesday night, Christmas Day of course, and then we have the weekend. So that’s going to be a huge issue, most likely.”

The same holds true for the following week when the air quality could be even worse, as people will be lighting off fireworks to ring in the new year.

Last New Year’s Eve was the first that fireworks were legal in Arizona. Huhn says they were blamed for causing the highest levels of poor air quality for any New Year’s Eve in state history.

“It’s the consumer fireworks (that are the problem),” he said. “It’s not the commercial fireworks you see at Tempe Town Lake or Indian Steele Park. It’s the folks who are using the ground fireworks. That’s the issue, and it’s really spiked up to the fact that we had our highest level ever (last year).”

Huhn said taking in one of the professional fireworks shows instead of lighting your own could lessen the amount of Valley smoke.