Bad air quality in eight counties, including the valley portion of Kern County, has prompted the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District to implement the season's first valleywide wood-burning ban.

The ban is in effect beginning at midnight Tuesday and continuing through midnight Wednesday, according to an air district news release. It covers the counties of San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and the valley portion of Kern (excluding Frazier Park).

The prohibition, the air district news release said, applies to residential wood burning, including pellets and manufactured fire logs, and also applies to outdoor fire pits and chimineas.

Mandatory bans might continue depending on air quality, the air district warned.

The Check Before You Burn program runs from November through February. Air district officials noted that it's late in the season to just now have the first valleywide ban. It's aimed at reducing the amount of particulate matter in the air.

When burning is prohibited, you can't burn any solid fuel in a residential fireplace or wood-burning device.

There are two exceptions:

* If a residence does not have access to natural gas service, even if propane is used, or

* If burning solid fuel is the sole source of heat for the residence.

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