Wood Smoke Stories

Surrounded by wood burners in British Columbia

I live in a semi rural area of British Columbia where wood stove fire burning has been a tradition for generations. Over the past 25 years the population of our valley has exploded and with it, the use of wood for home heating.

In the past wood smoke was not too much of an issue, as people also heated with electric baseboards, and alternated between the two sources of heating. After BC Hydro was privatized by a right wing government, electrical bills went from low cost to annual increases. Many people felt they could not “afford” to heat electrically, which is, in fact, inefficient with baseboards. The result has been in my neighbourhood, which has a winter inversion factor, of 75% of home heating with wood and most with outdated boxes. Even some homes with a heat pump also have a wood stove for that occasional “cosy” ambience.

Educating the neighbours about particulates and toxins coming out of their chimneys and trying to maintain friendly terms is increasingly difficult. I am surrounded on all sides by wood burners and I can feel it in my lungs and throat when they are chugging out the miasma of white smoke. In the spring when I work in the garden, I often have to wear a mask over my nose and mouth. I tape informational posters on the postal boxes, but they get removed.

One wants to live together in an otherwise very pleasant area, but I feel the local governments need to push change and not by the swap out programmes for one stove to an EPA one. My home has always had a fully ducted heat pump system which is about 30 years old. I feel fortunate, but on some days during inversion, you can smell smoke indoors. Last year I bought a PurpleAir monitor and this winter I plan on issuing warnings on a neighbourhood watch Facebook page when particulate levels are high. Maybe that will get through