For the tenth time in 32 days, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District is issuing a Winter Spare the Air Alert for Saturday, February 2, which bans burning wood, manufactured fire logs or any other solid fuel, both indoors and outdoors for 24 hours.
Another high-pressure system across the Bay Area is once again responsible for the ban. Pollution levels are expected to hit unhealthy levels this weekend, district officials say.
“Wood smoke is the ‘other second-hand smoke,’ with many of the same harmful qualities as cigarette smoke,” said Jack Broadbent, executive officer of the Air District. “In the Bay Area, it’s the single largest source of air pollution on still winter days.”
A district spokesman recently told Patch that the Bay Area has well over 1 million fireplaces, most of them constructed before anyone understood the dangers of wood smoke. Particulates from the smoke get trapped in the air during high-pressure systems and create health havoc for children, the elderly and anyone with pulmonary problems, the spokesman said.
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. Homes without permanently installed heating, where woodstoves or fireplaces are the only source of heat, are exempt.
Starting this winter, first-time violators will be given the option to take a wood smoke awareness class, online or by mail, to learn about the hazards of wood smoke pollution in lieu of paying a penalty. Second violations will result in a $500 ticket and subsequent ticket amounts will be higher.
You can check with the air district before burning between Nov. 1 and Feb. 28 at the following locations:
- On the Air District Web sites: www.baaqmd.gov or www.sparetheair.org
- Via the toll-free hotline 1-877-4-NO-BURN (complaints can also be filed via the hotline)
- By signing up for AirAlerts at www.sparetheair.org or phone alerts at 1-800-430-1515
- Via the Spare the Air iPhone and Android Apps
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (www.baaqmd.gov) is the regional agency responsible for protecting air quality in the nine-county Bay Area.