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Wood Burner? Heed 'Spare The Air' Alerts

During the winter it is illegal to use any indoor or outdoor wood burning system when an alert has been issued. Fines are possible. Sign up to stay informed.

The Winter Spare the Air season has started. It runs from through February 29. 

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

During a Winter Spare the Air Alert, the use of fireplaces, pellet stoves, wood stoves, fireplace inserts and outdoor fire pits is illegal.

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 will 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. Please learn something about the health effects of wood smoke, as well as detailed information about the Wood Burning Rule and how to comply with it.

Here are 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:

Michael Austin November 30, 2011 at 12:22 AM
I posted a blog on Pleasanton Patch September 22, 2011 regarding wood burning and spare the air days. I also communictaed with Cal Trans to turn off the freeway metering lights on the spare the air days. Cal Trans responded back via email that they have taken my suggestion under consideration to turn off the metering lights on spare the air days. That was nine weeks ago. They continue to have my suggestion under consideration. I got this news piece today by clicking on local news in my AOL home page.
Tim November 30, 2011 at 12:37 AM
There is a difference in what causes "unhealthy" air quality. Automotive vehicles are a huge contributor to summertime poor air quality as emissions from idling vehicles lead to the creation of tropospheric ozone, aka "smog". Hot, sunny days with bright sun and little wind are the catalyst. Wintertime poor air quality is not as affected by vehicle emissions. The concern, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) is particulate emissions which are a result of some vehicle emissions (mostly larger, older diesel trucks) but the major factor in particulates is wood-burning. Having Cal Trans turn off freeway metering lights would have almost no impact on wintertime air quality and I would argue that even for controlling ozone in summer it might have a negative effect because you'd have more idling traffic on the freeways.
Michael Austin November 30, 2011 at 02:42 AM
Tim, thank you for your input, it is welcomed. At the time I contacted Cal Trans the week 09/18/11-09/24/11 The metering lights had not previously been in operation between San Ramon and Sunol on I-680. Cal Trans turned them on during the period approximately 09/07/11-09/15/11. There was an immediate reaction from the neighborhoods that are below the freeway, and during the third week of September there were three spare the air days in a roll, and I believe a forth STA day before the end of that week. The metering light turn on was due to issues south of Sunol regarding the new express lane. The temperature during this period was in the 80's and warmer. The folks in the neighborhoods correctly determined the source of irratant resulted from metering lights being turned on. Prior to the metering lights being turned on, traffic was merging and moving. When the metering lights came on long lines developed and stood still at the lights.

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