Give a hoot …

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, as the saying goes. But the reverse is also true: Where there’s fire, there’s smoke. And that’s a problem in Chico, which has the third-worst air in the state when it comes to the dangerous small particles that make up smoke.

Everybody enjoys a warm fire on a cold night, but it’s time to favor health over fires. Doing so would make the air much cleaner and especially benefit the thousands who have lung problems such as asthma and for whom wood smoke can be deadly.

The Butte County Air Quality Management District wishes to adopt new standards on wood heaters and fireplaces by the beginning of burning season in November. It is considering several options, but the most controversial one is a ban on fires in fireplaces and older, more polluting wood heaters on nights when the air is bad—unless wood is a household’s only source of heat. Cities that have initiated mandatory no-burning days have had much greater success than those with purely voluntary programs.

There are ways to reduce smoke pollution while retaining the right to burn wood, but they will require changing how we go about it. And that begins with the recognition that we must all do what we can to keep the air we breathe clean. We owe it to each other—and to ourselves.