no-burn day

On the drive to work this morning, my local public radio station advised that today is a no-burn day.
I had never heard that term before, though I’m familiar with the reasoning behind it:

A ‘no burn’ alert is in effect through midnight Wednesday for parts of Los Angeles and Orange counties.

Sam Atwood, spokesman for the South Coast Air Quality Management District, said this is the third time the agency has issued an alert this winter.

‘During the winter, we can get these low-level temperature inversions which trap the smoke from the fireplaces low to the ground and can contribute to unhealthy air quality,’ he said.

A ‘no burn’ alert means residents in affected areas cannot burn wood or manufactured logs in fireplaces or outdoor fire pits.”

I love to burn wood in an outdoor fireplace, but it’s becoming increasingly apparent that my outdoor fires are an unnecessary indulgence, an ill-advised luxury that contributes a shocking amount of particulates to a neighborhood, a city, a county, an inversion layer. So now it’s a rare occurrence, maybe once or twice a year, burning only the driest wood to keep the smoke down. I mostly keep potted plants on our old Ben Franklin stove now.


In late December we trialed a new flue we had built. Along with building the flue, the stove was sandblasted again, the second time since we’ve come to own it over a decade ago, after retrieving it from an outdoor dump site in Riverside County. Marty put a quick coat of silver paint on it after the sandblasting to protect it from the winter rain. Willie’s Tin Shop built the flue. Sometimes I think we invent projects just so we can work with a business that would choose a name like Willie’s Tin Shop. Plus, the original, decades-old shop had really cool signage. (Forget Yelp, we go by signage and heartfelt business names.)

We trialed the flue in a couple locations, moving the heavy monster around on a wheeled base, settling on a spot out of the wind.


I do miss the long-ago fires we had throughout the winter before I knew better. We all love a good fire here.


But this will most likely be the only outdoor fire I’ll enjoy this winter, the torches of aloes in bloom.


No tag, possibly Aloe africana, growing at the entrance to the 710 Freeway on Seventh Street.


My own Aloe capitata var. quartzicola’s bloom taking shape.

So the Ben Franklin remains dark for the foreseeable future, this no-burn winter.

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6 Responses to no-burn day

  1. I know this is going to sound incredibly cheesy but…in my last house I never could get the chimney to actually draw the smoke up and out of the house. I finally gave up and filled the fireplace to overflowing with candles. Nothing fancy (no candle holders) just big chunky candles in a sort of off white color. It was pretty amazing when they were all lit. Maybe?

  2. Denise says:

    Loree, that’s the answer! No moping, but lots of candles. That’ll put some sparkle back in Ben F.

  3. Sue says:

    A few years ago I had a contractor install a gas log insert in my livingroom fireplace and it was some of the best money I ever spent. Now when I want the ambience of a fire I just tap a button on a remote control. Loree’s idea of candles sounds good too.

  4. hoov says:

    My asthmatic husband thanks you!

  5. kathy says:

    Well Denise, I had no idea you had this stove set-up..! How did I miss it ? I can’t recall ever seeing a photo of it before. Ein makes a stunning accessory. They are ‘Spare The Air’ days up here, same gig. We had lots of them last winter, but not so many this year as the rain has been pretty consistent.I have to admit I love the smell of wood smoke, but I do observe the no burn rules.

  6. Denise says:

    Sue, there’s gotta be work-arounds for outdoors too — face it, we all love a good fire.
    Hoov, you’re welcome!
    Kathy, I think the most intense outdoor wood smoke smell I’ve ever encountered was in your neighbor city, Mill Valley. This stove has been around so long we’ve burned through the back metal panel.

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