Wood burning bans now in effect year-round on Spare the Air days

Wood burning bans will now be in effect year-round on Spare the Air days in the Bay Area after a vote Wednesday by the region's air quality regulatory board.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District Board of Directors approved the change at its meeting in San Francisco as part of an effort to protect public health, particularly during wildfires.

Under the previous policy, wood burning was only prohibited when Winter Spare the Air Alerts were issued between the months of November and February. Now, it will be banned whenever an alert is issued due to particulate matter pollution reaching unhealthy levels.

Violators of the ban are encouraged to take a wood smoke awareness course or pay $100 if it is their first violation, with increasing fines for subsequent violations.

"As wildfires become increasingly normal in California, it is critical we take action to safeguard public health when wildfire smoke affects air quality," BAAQMD executive director Jack Broadbent said in a news release.

There is an exemption to the ban during PG&E's Public Safety Power Shutoffs or any other loss of power, or when there is no alternate form of heat available, according to the air district.

People can find out when a Spare the Air Alert has been issued by signing up for text alerts by sending the word "START" to 817-57, calling (877) 4NO-BURN, visiting www.sparetheair.org or downloading the Spare the Air smartphone app.