"University of Utah research has shown wood smoke alone makes up approximately 5 percent of the particulates in our winter air and endangers public health," Herbert said. "We have learned that burning one log for an hour is equivalent to driving an automobile from Salt Lake City to St. George and back again."
State air quality board members proposed the ban, which would run from Nov. 1 to March 15, at their December meeting.
During two weeks of public hearings between Jan. 14 and Jan. 29, air quality regulators want to gauge public opinion of the idea.
The rule might not apply to areas above 7,000 feet in elevation — including canyon communities and ski resorts.
Restaurants and homes that rely on wood or coal for heat also would be exempted, but only if they are on the state's sole-source registry. The Division of Air Quality is re-opening the list for a six-month period starting Feb. 1 to accommodate homeowners who failed to sign up in the past.
The first hearings are Jan. 14 in Tooele and Jan. 15 at the Department of Environmental Quality's Salt Lake City headquarters.
Written comments will be accepted though Feb. 9.
Wood burning already is restricted during the winter along the Wasatch Front and in Cache Valley, a region that is out of attainment for the federal standard for fine particulate matter, or PM 2.5.
With green, yellow and red air quality days, burning is restricted in the state's population centers as inversions build and persist.
This week for example, burning has been prohibited, even though particulate levels have remained below the federal threshold of 35 micrograms per cubic meter.
State scientists says a full burn ban could knock nearly 2 micrograms off the Salt Lake Valley's worst PM 2.5 readings — about a 4 percent reduction. Modeling shows that change can be achieved if compliance with no-burn rules increases from 85 percent to 100 percent, according Dave McNeill, DAQ's planning manager.
And air quality advocates hail the ban as a bold step toward cleaning up Utah's stubborn inversions, which trap fine particulate pollution near the ground.
"It's one arrow in the of quiver of things we can do to improve air quality in Utah," said Rob DeBirk, campaign strategist with HEAL Utah. "Everyone wants to look out the window and be able to see the Oquirrhs or Point of the Mountain. This is one small step every person can take to make that a reality. It's not the only step."
But the proposal also has drawn jeers.
A full ban would punish those who have invested thousands of dollars upgrading their wood stoves to EPA-compliant models that burn more cleanly, according to Ed Red, a mechanical engineering professor at Brigham Young University.