ABC 4’s Kim Johnson is the first reporter to ride along with Rick Ombach of the Utah Division of Air Quality.
It’s his job to patrol neighborhoods and follow up on wood burning complaint calls, typically made by neighbors.
“Lots of times it’s elderly or children with asthma and they are having trouble breathing,” said Ombach.
Utah prohibits any wood burning for most of the state on red air days. This year is a particularly busy year for smoke patrol.
Last season, there were only two red air days and a total of 14 wood burning complaints. This season there have already been 10 red air days and Ombach is averaging five complaints a day.
He said people don't realize the impact of one smoking chimney.
“Every little bit helps,” he said. Ombach said fire places are bad emitters. “It's one of our dirtiest sources even though there’s not a ton of them they do emit a lot of particulates into the air.”
While ABC 4 was on smoke patrol there were no signs of smoke at any of the suspected homes. All violators receive a warning letter and face a fine which can range from $25 to $300.
As of Jan. 1, the wood burning ban applies to Cache, Box Elder and Tooele counties.
If you would like to report any burning in your neighborhood, call the Utah Division of Air Quality at 801-536-4000.
Wood burning stoves are allowed if it is the sole source of heat in a home. But residents much register. For more information, visit deq.utah.gov.