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Your wood-burning fireplace is no friend to the Brown Cloud that hangs over the Valley of the Sun.

The smoke that your beautiful wood fire sends up the chimney contains carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and tiny dust particles that can penetrate the lungs, irritate the eyes, nose and throat, and aggravate asthma and other respiratory diseases.

That dirty smoke contributes to the pollution that causes the Brown Cloud—the haze that hovers over the valley and led Maricopa County to earn the American Lung Association’s lowest rating for air quality in 2005.

On the worst days, Maricopa County and parts of Pinal County declare “no-burn days,” when it’s illegal to burn wood in your home’s fireplace. Pima County asks residents to voluntarily limit their wood fires.

 It’s OK to burn gas logs in your fireplace on no-burn days.

 No-burn days usually come between October and February, when the pollutants get trapped close to the ground on cool overnights, and produce a visible haze as they rise during the day when the desert floor heats up.

You’ll know when it’s a no-burn day if you tune into the news on TV or radio. You can also check the Maricopa County Web site ( or the Pinal County Web site (

If you get caught burning wood on a no-burn day, you could pay a $50 fine the first time and $100 each time after that.

Wood-burning fireplaces aren’t the only dirty-air culprit, of course; the valley’s rapid growth has drawn more cars, construction-related dust, power plants, gas lawn-mowers, leaf blowers and other polluters that also contribute to the hovering Brown Cloud.

Avoiding wood fires is just one way you can help curb pollution on no-burn days—and every day.

Other clean-air strategies include:

  • Give your leaf blower a rest. It stirs up dirt and dust that hang in the air.
  • Carpool or take the bus instead of driving.
  • Change your car’s oil every 3,000 miles or so.  

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