Wood Smoke Stories

Dreading autumn in Sydney suburb

I never noticed how bad residential wood fire smoke could get until I moved to a certain Sydney suburb many years ago now. We are on the upper end of a slope, which leads into something of a valley, with several streets of homes below us, many of which have chimneys.

Basically 5–6 months a year, I have seams on doors, sliding glass doors, skirting boards, etc, taped up to prevent as much indoor leakage as possible. I also run a bare minimum of 3 air purifiers in the inhabited spaces of the house every single night, scaling up to 4–5 on really bad nights (i.e. low winds/low mixing height). It is costly and stressful, and I dread autumn/winter every year now.

I used to enjoy the cool, clean air that you could breathe in deep, it was refreshing. But now I’d say I have borderline PTSD dealing with this so consistently, essentially putting our home on lockdown once the sun sets. I find it funny that we were all gung-ho to ban cigarette smoking in public places, but for some reason nobody seems to apply that thinking to chimneys, which probably emit 1,000 times the amount of PM2.5 as a cigarette. The romantic, cozy history of a fireplace is considered totally acceptable.

This needs to change, but sadly it probably won’t in my lifetime.