Winter Spare the Air season starting soon, tighter restrictions in place


The Winter Spare the Air season is starting soon, and Bay Area Air Quality Management District officials say it includes new restrictions this year.

When Spare the Air alerts are issued during the season, Bay Area residents are prohibited from burning wood, manufactured fire logs or any other solid fuel indoors or outdoors, air district officials said.

This year, the district's board has voted to tighten exemptions that were previously offered to residents who burned wood as their sole source of heat and those with broken heaters.

Those burning wood as their sole source of heat must now be using a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-certified device and register with the district, while the broken heater exemption only extends for 30 days instead of for the entire season, air district officials said.

The district will also begin calling Winter Spare the Air alerts up to three days in advance in some cases to avoid wood smoke build-up, meaning that the number of Spare the Air alerts will probably go up.

The Winter Spare the Air season starts Sunday and ends Feb. 29.

The district board voted earlier this month to expand regulations in a number of areas, including prohibiting the installation of wood-burning devices in new construction and requiring buildings to replace existing wood-burning devices with ones certified by the EPA. In addition, all Bay Area wood heater manufacturers and retailers are required to comply with EPA standards.

The restrictions on burning wood are intended to reduce fine particle pollution, a hazardous mix of extremely small particles and droplets composed of acids, organic chemicals, metals, soil, or dust often found in smoke and haze.

Fine particle pollution can cause increased respiratory problems as well as lung and heart complications, according to the EPA.

Wood smoke is responsible for around 40% of the Bay Area's fine particle pollution, according to the air district.

The existing wood burning regulations were adopted in 2008, and air district officials said they have been effective in reducing fine particle pollution in the Bay Area.

— Bay City News Service

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.


Like this comment
Posted by PSMacintosh
a resident of Danville
on Oct 29, 2015 at 9:28 am

This is a racket! Lots of time and money spent for this Governmental Empire.
And it will only get BIGGER and wider.

One forest fire wipes out ALL this agency's gains for a year. It would be better to spend our money on those.

It's a Nazi-cop agency!
Watch your backs! Don't trust your kids or neighbors.

OK now, drag out the story about the one asthmatic kid for miles around that theoretically wants to go out and play soccer for 24 hours a day, but can't because of the air quality. Yeah, right!?!

4 people like this
Posted by cyclist2
a resident of Danville
on Oct 29, 2015 at 10:23 am

PSM, should we bring back smoking in restaurants and the workplace? As someone who grew up in LA where it hurt my chest to take a deep breath and burned my eyes, I hate air pollution. It only takes one chimney to smoke up a neighborhood. We are in the the 21st century, we don't need to burn wood for heat like the caveman.

When asked if I smoke, I say yes from November to May every year I breathe neighbors' chimney smoke. I say it's time to ban all wood burning.

P.S. When I lived in the country with only electricity and telephone for utilities, I heated with an efficient wood burning stove. The population density was much lower there than where most of us live.

Like this comment
Posted by PSMacintosh
a resident of Danville
on Oct 29, 2015 at 10:58 am


I don't disagree with you about not liking someone else's cigarette smoke in closed areas.
And I also grew up in LA with heavy smog pollution back then, so I appreciate that LA's air has gotten better (apparently mostly due to controls on industrial pollution...but I also like the removal of heavily smoking cars/trucks from the road).

But most people are NOT outside (in the wide open air) for very long of a time on the cold winter nights (when most people are using a fireplace).

How about this: I'll give up my recreational enjoyment of a wood-burning fireplace in my hearth, if YOU will give up your bicycle riding!?!
Or are they going to have to pry your bike out of your cold, dead hands?

You ever huddle up with a loved one in front of a hot fire and watch the flames? That "moment" will become a thing of the past. In fact, you'll be a CRIMINAL if you do it!

Funny how Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and NY Eve are always on the no-burn list?
Actually, it's NOT so funny!

4 people like this
Posted by Cyclist2
a resident of Danville
on Nov 3, 2015 at 10:57 am


There's a big difference between healthy exercise and poisoning the air with carcinogen laden wood smoke for recreation. Get a gas burning fireplace if you enjoy it so much. I also like watching a fire but sometimes you have to sacrifice for the good of all.

4 people like this
Posted by Cognitive Disser
a resident of San Ramon
on Nov 4, 2015 at 9:09 am

PMac: Do you know the per capita general fund/tax cost of BAAQMD in Contra Costa County? Would you choose $2, $20, or $200/year? It's $2. For clean air.

By far the most of their funding comes from permit fees from polluters -- a user charge, if you will, for soiling the general public's air that belongs to all of us. Some of that may come back to us here in higher prices, but most of that is passed through to consumers elsewhere. Be sure to thank Aunt Mabel in Cleveland the next time you visit.

Do you know what the two biggest problems in our air are -- those issues for which the Bay Area exceeds national healthy air limits most often? They are ozone and particulates, especially fine particulates = wood smoke. How many days/year of unhealthy air would you say is acceptable for you and your kids to breathe? Your answer may be "lots" if you're from LA -- personally, my answer is "none." Grace of BAAQMD, the Bay Area is trending that direction, but we're not there, yet.

Disband the Air Board? No, thanks. I'd sooner pass-up one standard medium french-roast at 'Buckies, in return for clean air.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Couples Counseling, Al Pacino Style
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,997 views

Jammed BART trains demand innovative thinking moving forward
By | 8 comments | 715 views