Are bodies stacking up like cord wood?

To burn or not to burn

Burn bans aren’t just for wood stoves. Whenever there is a Red Burn Code, there is also a ban on crematoriums using ovens and restaurants using wood-fired ovens and grills. Mary Harp, cemetery superintendent for Masonic Memorial Gardens, says that throughout the winter, she calls the air quality information line before she starts any cremation. If the recording says it’s a red day, she waits.

“We do have regulations that we follow concerning how many days we can take to cremate remains, but something like a burn ban is out of our hands, so we can wait an extra day or two,” Harp said.

Lucky for Harp, the red burning bans rarely continue for more than a couple days in a row. Campo chef and owner, Mark Estee cooks with a wood-fired oven and does not have to stop using it during burn bans because he installed a pollution control unit (PCU) that scrubs the pollution out of the smoke before it leaves the chimney. The unit has been approved by the Washoe County Health District, Air Quality Management and the city of Reno building department.

“It costs a ton of money to keep it up and running, but it’s totally worth it to keep pollution out of the air,” said Estee.

In recent years, the air quality people at the Health District have used two different pollution standards to guide burn bans. When the pollution level is at 100, or unhealthful for sensitive groups, all residential wood burning must stop. If that level reaches 150, then all restaurants cooking with wood have to stop.

“It just works out better for the 20 or so properties that use wood-fired stoves and the crematoriums to wait until the levels are higher,” stated Charlene Albee, permitting branch chief for air quality. “They aren’t really contributing to the problem like residential wood burning is, and we see a tremendous reduction with just stopping that.”