First ‘Spare the Air’ alert of the season sees wood burning banned in San Francisco

Today marks the first day of the season on which the Bay Area Air Quality Management District has felt it necessary to announce a Spare the Air Alert for fine particle pollution in San Francisco, a move which bans people from burning wood while the alert is in place.

The announcement reads: ‘The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is issuing the winter season’s first Spare the Air Alert for tomorrow, Friday, December 15, which bans burning wood, manufactured fire logs or any other solid fuel, both indoors and outdoors.

‘Smoke from increased wood burning combined with light winds and low overnight temperatures is expected to cause unhealthy air quality. High pressure over northern California will act like a lid, trapping smoke at ground level. Offshore winds may also transport air pollution from the Central Valley into the Bay Area.’

The only exceptions to the rule are for houses in which wood stoves are the only source of heating but even in these cases, only an EPA-certified or pellet-fueled device that is registered with the Air District can be used.

During winter months, wood smoke is the largest source of air pollution in the Bay Area, accounting for more than one-third of fine particulate matter pollution. On cool, calm days when there is an inversion layer of warm air acting as a lid over a layer of cold air, wood smoke can build up at ground level to unhealthy concentrations.

Spare the Air Alerts came into effect in 2008 and was originally only applied between November and February. In 2019, the rule was extended to cover the whole year and is often used during events such as wildfires.

First-time offenders 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. The alternative to taking the course is a $100 fine. Second offences are subject to a $500 fine, increasing for any subsequent violations.


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6 months ago

I think we should do the same here in the UK. In fact, no wood burning at all unless that is someone’s only means of home heating and cooking. Give it time, and this will come. Burning wood in 2024 is like going back in time.

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