INDIAN WELLS, Calif. - In the fall and winter, Kevin Douglas turns on his fireplace at least three times a week.
"It reminds us of growing up back east up north. Reminds us of being up in the mountains. In the evenings it adds a unique ambiance the gas fireplace just doesn't do," he said.
On polluted days, he can't, though. The South Coast Air Quality Management District will issue a 24-hour mandatory no-burn alert for home fireplaces and outdoor fire pits and wood stoves when stagnant weather raises pollution to unhealthy levels.
"I don't think its on people's radar. This is the first we've heard of it. Not that we talk about fireplaces a lot with our friends but I don't think many are aware of it," Douglas said.
Douglas isn't alone. We went door to door asking people if they knew about this fine and most didn't. Douglas says he understands the need for it.
"I think if there are real troubles with dust, or if there are fires like we've been having, I think it's not a bad idea to have something like that," Douglas said.
Smoke contributes to fine-particle pollution, which carries a lot of health risks, with links to heart disease and aggravated asthma.
Officials expect more "no burn" days this fall and winter because the threshold has been lowered. It's a "no-burn" day when fine-particle pollution in a particular area is expected to reach at least 30 micrograms per cubic meter of air. Last year, the threshold was 35 micrograms per cubic meter.
The ban doesn't apply to natural-gas fireplaces or propane barbecue grills. People living in mountain areas higher than 3,000 feet, low income households, or those who rely on wood as a sole source of heat are exempt from the rules.
"I don't think it would be that frequent. The air out here is generally clear and clean. I wouldn't see it as a big inconvenience," Douglas said.
Violators could face a $50 fine or be required to take a smoke-awareness class.
To find out if a mandatory no-burn alert has been issued, you can:
-Sign up at www.airalerts.org to get electronic email notices.
-Enter your zip code at www.aqmd.gov.
-Call a toll-free line at 866-966-3293.