‘Spare the Air’ alert bans wood fires Wednesday

Persistent stagnant weather is forcing the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to issue a ban on wood burning for the San Francisco Bay Area Wednesday.

The ban prohibits residents from burning wood, commercial fire logs and other solid fuel either indoors or outdoors for 24 hours. The ban is known as a Spare the Air Alert. Violating the ban can result in fines of $500 and more, if the resident has been caught violating the ban previously.

For the first offense, violators have the option of taking an awareness class in lieu of paying a $100 fine.

“We think the social cost of PM (particulate matter) pollution is in the billions of dollars” each year in the Bay Area, BAAQMD spokesman Aaron Richardson said. Richardson said PM pollution is linked with 2,800 premature deaths each year in the Bay Area. Wood smoke is linked with respiratory illnesses and heart attacks.

BAAQMD executive officer Jack Broadbent said:

“Persistent stagnant weather continues to trap wood smoke pollution in the region. …¬†Wood smoke … contains many of the same toxins as cigarettes.”

According to the BAAQMD, cool stagnant weather coupled with light winds will continue Wednesday causing pollution to build to unhealthy levels. The fine particulate matter in wood smoke is small enough that it can be inhaled deeply into the lungs and can enter the bloodstream, Richardson said.

Besides people with respiratory illnesses, wood smoke is especially harmful to seniors and children, according to the BAAQMD. Bay Area residents and businesses are banned from using fireplaces, woodstoves, pellet stoves, outdoor fire pits or other devices that burn wood, except in homes where woodstoves or fireplaces are the only source of heat.

The Winter Spare the Air season started Nov. 1 and goes through Feb. 28, during which time residents and businesses must check whether the BAAQMD has issued a Spare the Air alert. To check, call (877) 4-NO-BURN or visit www.baaqmd.gov or www.sparetheair.org.