First winter ‘Spare the air’ alert issued

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District issued its first Winter Spare the Air alert for Sunday, which bans the burning of firewood either indoors or outdoors, a spokesman for the agency said Saturday.

Under a Winter Spare the Air alert, residents are prohibited from using their fireplaces, woodstoves, pellet stoves, outdoor fire pits, or any other wood-burning device, said spokesman Ralph Borrman.

The wood-burning ban will be in effect for Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, southern Sonoma and southwestern Solano counties.

Borrman said cool, stagnant weather is expected to increase pollution to unhealthy levels. Wood smoke contains fine particles and carcinogenic substances that make the air harmful to breath, Borrman said.

In the winter, wood smoke from the 1.4 million fireplaces and wood stoves in the area is the single largest source of air pollution, contributing to about one-third of the harmful particles in the air, Borrman said:

“When air pollution rises and the air district calls a Winter Spare the Air alert, it’s critical that Bay Area residents protect the health of their families and neighbors by refraining from lighting up their fireplaces and wood stoves.”

said air district executive director Jack Broadbent. Residents should check the air quality status first before burning wood during the Winter Spare the Air season, which runs from Nov. 1 through Feb. 28.

Residents can check the information online at www.baaqmd.gov or www.sparetheair.org. Spare the Air apps are available for iPhone and Android devices, or residents can sign up for Spare the Air alerts at www.sparetheair.org or by calling (800) 430-1515.