Spare the air: Wood burning banned in Bay Area Tuesday

- A Winter Spare the Air Alert has been issued for Tuesday in the Bay Area, air quality officials announced today.

A ban will be placed for 24 hours on burning wood, manufactured fire logs or any other solid fuel both indoors and outdoors, according to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

Air district officials said it will be illegal for Bay Area residents and businesses to use fireplaces, woodstoves, pellet stoves, outdoor fire pits or any other wood-burning devices, with the exception of residents whose sole source of heat is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-certified wood-burning device.

Exceptions are no longer made for open-hearth devices, according to the air district.

Air district executive officer Jack Brodbent said in a statement that winter days with milder temperatures trap unhealthy particulate matter in the air, with wood burning contributing significantly to the problem.

According to air district officials, wood smoke is the major source of air pollution in the Bay Area during the winter, contributing to about one-third of the harmful fine particulate pollution in the air. Residents and business owners during the Winter Spare the Air season, which started Nov. 1 and ends in February, must check to see whether an alert has been issued before burning wood.

First-time violators have the option of paying a $100 fine or taking an awareness class by mail or online. Air district officials said fines are higher for subsequent violations.

Residents and business owners can check whether an alert has been issued by calling (877) 466-2876, visiting www.sparetheair.org or www.baaqmd.gov, signing up for email alerts at www.sparetheair.org, signing up for automatic phone alerts by calling (800) 430-1515 or downloading Spare the Air apps for iPhone and Android operating systems.

Tuesday's alert is the fifth issued during the winter season. The previous ones were issued on four consecutive days in December.

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