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Saturday brings Bay Area’s first winter Spare the Air Alert

Chillier temperatures in the forecast are expected to bring increased smoke from wood burning around the Bay Area, prompting air district officials to issue the winter season’s first Spare the Air Alert for Saturday.

Burning wood, manufactured fire logs or any other solid fuel, both indoors and outdoors, is banned during air alerts.

A high-pressure system in place over Northern California will act like a lid, trapping smoke at ground level, according to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

Jack Broadbent, executive officer of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District said:

“The Bay Area is expected to experience unhealthy air quality due to weather conditions that trap wood smoke near the ground and allow it to build up.”

In addition, offshore winds may also allow air pollution from the San Joaquin Valley to drift into the Bay Area, air district officials said.

It’s illegal for residents and businesses in the region to use their fireplaces, wood stoves, pellet stoves, outdoor fire pits or any other wood-burning devices during a Spare the Air Alert for fine particle pollution. Exemptions are available for homes without permanently installed heating, where wood stoves or fireplaces are the only source of heat.

Anyone whose sole source of heat is a wood-burning device must use an EPA-certified or pellet-fueled device that is registered with the Air District to qualify for an exemption. An open-hearth fireplace no longer qualifies for an exemption.

Wood smoke contains carcinogenic substances, such as particulate matter and carbon monoxide, which are harmful when inhaled. Exposure to wood smoke has been linked to serious respiratory illnesses and increased risk of heart attacks. The fine particulate pollution in wood smoke is especially harmful for children, the elderly and those with respiratory conditions.

Cold temperatures and calm winds trap smoke from household wood burning around homes and increases fine particulate pollution buildup inside and outside residences. Natural gas, propane or electric fireplaces are allowed during Spare the Air Alerts.

In San Francisco, the National Park Service also prohibits recreational beach fires at Ocean Beach in Golden Gate National Recreation Area through the end of February.

Residents concerned about wood smoke pollution may call 1-877-4NO-BURN or visit www.baaqmd.gov to file a complaint or to get more information.

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