HEALTH HAZARD: Experts say smoke from wood fires can aggravate asthma, bronchitis and emphysema and even trigger heart attacks.
HEALTH HAZARD: Experts say smoke from wood fires can aggravate asthma, bronchitis and emphysema and even trigger heart attacks.

Smoky air can be hell or heaven

FOR some of us who love the scent it's incentive to breathe in deep while for others the first winter whiff of a smoking fire is the stuff of nightmares.

Wood fires are great for cooking pizza or curing smallgoods but if hay fever or asthma cause angst, then the smell of smoke in the night air brings trouble.

All local government authorities are warning residents to help improve winter air quality by checking they are using wood heaters correctly as temperatures drop.

Bellingen Shire Council's Matt Fanning said as winter sets in the incorrect use of wood heating can seriously affect our air quality.

"On colder weekends wood smoke particles from inefficient heaters float in the air and can be seen as a smoke haze that sometimes sits over built up areas,” he said.

"Not only is this sort of pollution unattractive it can also be bad for health as wood smoke can cause breathing difficulties, especially for people suffering existing respiratory conditions such as asthma.

"Very young children and frail older people (can be affected) and there is also evidence smoke pollution can cause cardiac problems.

"We can help reduce smoke pollution by using aged dry wood and running heaters properly.”

There are some simple steps to reducing wood smoke pollution.

Don't let heaters smoulder overnight and keep enough air in the fire to maintain a flame.

Burn only dry, aged hardwood as unseasoned wood has lots of moisture which causes a fire to smoke.

Store wood under cover in a dry, ventilated area and remember freshly cut wood needs to be stored for up to 12 months or more.

Never burn rubbish, driftwood or painted or treated wood as these are sure to pollute and may produce poisonous gases.

When lighting a cold heater use plenty of dry kindling to establish a good fire quickly.

Use several small logs rather than one large log and stack them loosely in your heater so air can circulate.

Keep the flame lively and bright and the fire should only smoke when you first light it or when adding extra fuel.

Open the air controls fully for five minutes before and 15-20 minutes after reloading the heater.

Check the chimney regularly to see how well your fire is burning and if there is smoke coming out increase the air supply to your fire.

Have the chimney cleaned every year to prevent creosote build-up.

If you are buying a wood heater make sure it has an Australian Standards compliance plate.