Don’t Light Tonight – FAQ

From November through February, Yolo-Solano AQMD runs its Don’t Light Tonight program, which asked residents to refrain from using fireplaces and wood stoves on days with higher forecasted particulate pollution levels.

See our answers to frequently asked questions below, or skip to a specific section.

Wood Smoke and Health | Alternatives to Burning

What is Don't Light Tonight?
Don’t Light Tonight is an annual program of the Yolo-Solano AQMD that asks residents to refrain from using their fireplaces and wood stoves on days with higher forecasted particulate pollution levels. See a full description of the program on our Don’t Light Tonight page.
What areas are covered by Don't Light Tonight?
Don’t Light Program advisories follow the boundaries of the Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District. The District includes all of Yolo County (including West Sacramento, Davis, Woodland, Winters, Esparto and Clarksburg) and the northeastern portion of Solano County (including Vacaville, Dixon and Rio Vista). If you live in a rural part of northern or eastern Solano County, check our map. The remainder of Solano County is in the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, which has a mandatory Winter Spare The Air program. Sacramento County is in the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District, which has a mandatory Check Before You Burn program.
Is this a burn ban? Are there penalties?
Don’t Light Tonight is a voluntary program. There are currently no penalties for using your fireplace or wood stove within Yolo-Solano AQMD during Don’t Light Tonight advisories. Participation by residents has allowed Yolo-Solano AQMD to keep the program voluntary to date. The City of Davis has adopted a nuisance ordinance for wood smoke. More information on the ordinance is available on the City’s website. Yolo-Solano AQMD is not involved in the complaint or enforcement process for the City of Davis’ program.
Why should I participate?
Wood smoke has been found to have serious health impacts at certain levels. As a public health agency, Yolo-Solano AQMD is tasked with protecting residents from the harmful effects of air pollution. Wood burning reduction programs have widely been shown to have strong positive effects on reducing particulate pollution and improving human health.
Why not restrict agricultural burning instead?
Yolo-Solano AQMD runs a comprehensive burn program for area farms and orchards that includes restrictions on size, length, timing and type of material burned. In addition, Yolo-Solano AQMD does not allow agricultural burning during active Don’t Light Tonight advisories, and issues violations and fines to those who burn without a permit or who burn when it is not allowed.
What are you doing about particulate pollution from trucks?
The California Air Resources Board has regulatory authority on mobile sources of air pollution such as cars and trucks. The ARB has enacted the nation’s strictest fuel economy standards and continues to develop rules to decrease air pollution caused by goods movement. The Yolo-Solano AQMD is an active partner in the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) on regional transportation issues and works with the Port of West Sacramento to make lower-emission methods of goods movement viable. In addition, the Yolo-Solano AQMD’s Clean Air Funds program offers grant money to companies seeking to reduce their emissions. Trucking companies have been awarded Clean Air Funds grants in the recent past.
Will my fireplace make a difference?
Certainly. In addition to helping the community reduce its overall air pollution inventory, you’ll be helping your neighbors. On particularly calm days — which tend to align with Don’t Light Tonight advisories — wood smoke can linger in a neighborhood. Neighbors with asthma may see their symptoms become exacerbated if there are fireplaces in use nearby.
How is our air compared to other areas?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sets national air quality standards. Yolo-Solano AQMD has been included in Sacramento Non-Attainment Region by EPA. The region has been considered to not be in attainment by the EPA for one of two national standards for particulate pollution. However, in 2012, the region applied for attainment based on recent air quality improvements. If the EPA declares the Sacramento region to be in attainment for this standard, the districts will cooperate to establish an attainment maintenance plan. But a season of high pollution could knock the region back out of attainment, which would require stricter regulations on emitters, potentially including those who use fireplaces and wood stoves. That said, within the region, Yolo-Solano has some of the cleanest air in all seasons, including winter.
Other than participating in Don't Light Tonight, how else can I help protect our community's air?
Replacing gas-powered lawn and garden equipment with electric versions cuts down on both particulate pollution and smog creation. Driving less also helps reduce smog; consider public transit, carpooling, cycling and walking. Plug-in electric vehicles also reduce or eliminate traditional gas consumption emissions, which are a major source of year round air pollution in California.

Wood Smoke and Health

Is wood smoke unhealthy to breathe?
In addition to gases and particles, the burning of wood produces fine particulate matter, a critera pollutant. Fine particulates are very small — it would take 25 of them lined up end to end to span the width of one human hair. Fine particulates can travel deep into your lungs, bypassing the body’s natural defenses. As a result, the lungs can be aggravated, especially for children, older adults and those with respiratory ailments including asthma. Fine particulates have also been linked to heart disease. Wood smoke also contains toxins such as benzene, aldehydes and alkenes, which are carcinogens.
If wood smoke is impacting my health, what should I do?
If you are burning wood, you should stop. A percentage of smoke from open hearth fires will escape into the home instead of going up the chimney. If your neighborhood is smoky or Yolo-Solano AQMD has forecast a higher pollution day, make sure your doors and windows are closed and stay indoors. Schedule outdoor exercise and activities early in the day, when particulate levels are typically lower. If you are having trouble breathing or having a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.
How can I tell if the air is going to be particularly bad on a given day?
Sign up for Yolo-Solano AQMD’s free air quality alerts. We’ll send you an e-mail if we’re expecting conditions to lead to higher local levels of fine particulates.

Alternatives to Burning

Is a gas insert better for the air than burning wood?
Yes! Burning propane or natural gas in a fireplace insert will produce very little air pollution while still providing heat and ambiance.
What about pellet stoves or EPA-certified wood stoves?
These types of devices do reduce particulate pollution substantially, provided that they are installed properly, the proper fuel is used and your chimney is clean.
I don't need to heat my whole house, so it's cheaper to burn wood than run my furnace.
You can save money on your energy bill and avoid the mess, cost and health effects of burning wood by making your home more energy efficient. Simple fixes like weather stripping and tight window seals can trap heat inside your home during the winter. You can also invest in high-efficiency windows, wall and ceiling insulation and smart thermostats to save money. A simple fix when you don’t need to heat the entire house is to simply close the vents in vacant rooms when you turn on your heater.