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Winter Spare the Air: Read the Rules, Take Our Poll

During the winter it is generally illegal to use fireplaces, wood stoves and any other indoor or outdoor woodburning system when an alert has been issued. Fines are possible. What do you think of those rules?

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District's Winter Spare the Air alert continues into Friday has started, making the use of fireplaces, pellet stoves, wood stoves, fireplace inserts and outdoor fire pits is generally illegal until the alert is lifted.

Read about the district's rules on fireplace use and wood burning during the winter, then scroll to the bottom of the story to take our poll and register your opinion.

Each day by 2 p.m., the district issues an air quality forecast for the next day. If air quality is forecast to be unhealthy, a Winter Spare the Air Alert is called. The alert will be in effect the entire next day, for a full 24 hours.

Fires for cooking are not prohibited during Winter Spare the Air Alerts, but the Air District asks the public to be mindful of air quality and recommends the use of gas and propane barbecues rather than wood or charcoal-fired cooking devices on these days.

There are also exceptions for those whose only source of heat is a wood-burning device.

First-time violators are issued a warning letter. Those who are found in violation a second time are issued a citation and are subject to a $400 fine. Repeat violators who continue to burn in violation of the regulation face increasing financial penalties.

If you spot a violation, you can can file a wood smoke complaint online.

During the winter, wood smoke is the largest source of harmful soot pollution, the Air District says. Follow these district links to learn about the health effects of wood smoke, the Wood Burning Rule and how to comply with it, and answers to some Frequently Asked Questions about the Winter Spare the Air program.

Residents and business owners who own or use any indoor or outdoor fireplace, fire pit or wood or pellet stove can do the following:

Terry December 09, 2011 at 07:34 PM
If there's a winter power outage (not unusual in my neighborhood) I will build a fire and wait, warmly, for the Air Police to come and arrest me.
Tracey December 09, 2011 at 07:51 PM
Clean air is good air. Many people are unaware how toxic and polluting wood smoke is (see, for example, this review: http://tinyurl.com/yod9f8.) Hundreds of studies document the harmful health effects of wood smoke, and children are especially vulnerable. Do your neighbors and yourselves a favor--don't burn, especially on spare-the-air days.
andy December 09, 2011 at 10:36 PM
The science is out. Air pollution from wood smoke is dangerous. So let's all give a bit for a few days and clean up the sludge in the air, and turn on cozy space heaters or curl up with our mates with socks and hats and stop complaining that we can't have a fire for a few days out of the year. I want healthy air longterm, not more cancers and lung and heart disease. It's not such a big deal to turn on a space heater. C'mon people.
jason December 11, 2011 at 01:40 AM
Its dangerous to step in a bathtub also. C'mon, lets be real. Lets put bigger restrictions on the big oil companies, but oh that would just raise gas prices. Nevermind, gas is already going back up. Ya, come fine me when the power goes out, but just leave the note on my door, because you may be greeted with a gun pointed at you. PG&E is way to costly as they continue to dish out their socialist demands. It's so- freakin' cold out right now, that we're all staying inside at night anyway, so what's the problem. I think you should at least be allowed to burn a certain number of days a week, especially the really cold days. If you're complaining about those who burn, then you're probably one of those really sensitive types who wear a mask when you walk outside anyway. So just buy a better mask. If my fellow citizens are the only one reading this, than I'm probably just waisting my time anyway. Be warm everybody.

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