SAN FRANCISCO – The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is issuing the season’s first and second Winter Spare the Air Alerts for today, Saturday, November 9, and Sunday, November 10, which bans burning wood, manufactured fire logs or any other solid fuel, both indoors and outdoors.
Smoke from increased wood burning is expected to cause air quality to be unhealthy due to cold overnight temperatures combined with light winds. A high-pressure system in place over Northern California will act like a lid, trapping smoke at ground level.
“Smoke from wood burning is expected to cause unhealthy air quality in the region,” said Jack Broadbent, executive officer of the Bay Area Air District. “Smoke from the1.4million fireplaces throughout the region can cause significant smoke buildup, similar to wildfire smoke, especially in inland valleys. To improve air quality and protect public health, it is critical to not burn wood and help reduce harmful woodsmoke pollution.”
It is illegal for Bay Area residents and businesses to use their fireplaces, woodstoves, pellet stoves, outdoor fire pits or any other wood-burning devices during a Winter Spare the Air Alert. Exemptions are available for homes without permanently installed heating, where woodstoves or fireplaces are the only source of heat. Anyone whose sole source of heat is a wood-burning device must use an EPA-certified or pellet-fueled device that is registered with the Air District to qualify for an exemption. An open-hearth fireplace no longer qualifies for an exemption.
Like cigarette smoke, wood smoke contains carcinogenic substances, such as particulate matter and carbon monoxide, which are harmful when inhaled. Exposure to wood smoke has been linked to serious respiratory illnesses and increased risk of heart attacks. The fine particulate pollution in wood smoke is especially harmful for children, the elderly and those with respiratory conditions
Cold temperatures and calm winds trap smoke from household wood-burning around homes and increases fine particulate pollution buildup inside and outside residences. Natural gas, propane or electric fireplaces are allowed during Winter Spare the Air Alerts.
The Air District may call Winter Spare the Air Alerts up to three days in advance to prevent air pollution from exceeding federal standards. During an alert, the use of wood burning devices such as fireplaces, pellet stoves, wood stoves and outdoor fire pits is illegal. In San Francisco, the National Park Service also prohibits recreational beach fires at Ocean Beach in Golden Gate National Recreation Area through the end of February.
First-time violators of the Wood Burning Rule are encouraged to take a wood smoke awareness course to learn more about the health impacts from wood smoke and the weather conditions that lead to unhealthy air quality in the winter. Those violators who choose not to take the course will receive a $100 ticket.
Second violations are subject to a $500 ticket, with the ticket amount increasing for any subsequent violations.
There are also year-round prohibitions on excessive smoke and burning garbage and other harmful materials like junk mail, plastic, wood pallets and more in fireplaces and woodstoves. Residents concerned about wood smoke pollution may call 1-877-4NO-BURN or visit www.baaqmd.gov to file a complaint or to get more information.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is the regional agency responsible for protecting air quality in the nine-county Bay Area.