Winter Spare the Air season starts Sunday | News | Palo Alto Online |


Winter Spare the Air season starts Sunday

New limits on wood burning to be implemented

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A seasonal ban on wood-burning fires is starting soon, and Bay Area Air Quality Management District officials say it includes new restrictions this year.

The Winter Spare the Air season starts Sunday and ends Feb. 29.

When Spare the Air alerts are issued during the season, Bay Area residents are prohibited from burning wood, manufactured fire logs or any other solid fuel indoors or outdoors, air district officials said.

This year, the district's board has voted to tighten exemptions that were previously offered to residents who burned wood as their sole source of heat and those with broken heaters.

Those burning wood as their sole source of heat must now be using a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-certified device and register with the district, while the broken heater exemption only extends for 30 days instead of for the entire season, air district officials said.

The district will also begin calling Winter Spare the Air alerts up to three days in advance in some cases to avoid wood smoke build-up, meaning that the number of Spare the Air alerts will probably go up.

The district board voted earlier this month to expand regulations in a number of areas, including prohibiting the installation of wood-burning devices in new construction and requiring buildings to replace existing wood-burning devices with ones certified by the EPA. In addition, all Bay Area wood heater manufacturers and retailers are required to comply with EPA standards.

The restrictions on burning wood are intended to reduce fine particle pollution, a hazardous mix of extremely small particles and droplets composed of acids, organic chemicals, metals, soil, or dust often found in smoke and haze.

Fine particle pollution can cause increased respiratory problems as well as lung and heart complications, according to the EPA.

Wood smoke is responsible for around 40 percent of the Bay Area's fine particle pollution, according to the air district.

The existing wood burning regulations were adopted in 2008, and air district officials said they have been effective in reducing fine particle pollution in the Bay Area.

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23 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 29, 2015 at 8:54 am

Noxious wood smoke in the air has prevented us from taking the kids outdoors in past winters. We're glad they are finally cracking down on pollution scowflaws and bogus "exemptions".

5 people like this
Posted by old but wise
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 29, 2015 at 11:59 am

Does that mean we can't Barbeque outside?


4 people like this
Posted by Harry Stangel
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 29, 2015 at 1:54 pm

Cooking fires, indoor or out, are excluded from the regulations; see Web Link, regulation 1 (General Provisions and Definitions) section 1.110.4.

I wonder if toasting marshmallows over coals for dessert qualifies...

4 people like this
Posted by somebody
a resident of another community
on Nov 4, 2015 at 11:19 am

The new 3-day advance declaration of spare the air days (which means more spare the air days) sounds like a scam. We're expected to have rainier weather this winter and rainy weather means cleaner air. Sounds like mother nature has intervened with cleaner air and the only way to keep the patrollers employed is simply to find a way to have more spare the air days despite the weather.

13 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Native
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 4, 2015 at 12:37 pm

Why can't they just prohibit all burning all the time? I can't stand it when wood smoke fills the air and infiltrates my hair when I'm going in from the outside or when we cannot leave our windows open for fresh air because someone needs to have a nice fire for ambiance. Why should people be allowed to pollute the air and pollute our lungs for their enjoyment? Burning should be banned as second-hand smoke has been banned.

5 people like this
Posted by Too much
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 4, 2015 at 3:58 pm

@ Palo Alto Native

If we follow your reasoning we should ban leaf blowers and cars and trucks as well. And also all barbecuing.

7 people like this
Posted by Asthmatic
a resident of Ohlone School
on Nov 4, 2015 at 4:10 pm

Agree that burning in fireplaces should be banned. Vehicles and leaf blowers are necessary while fireplaces are for pure enjoyment for the very few. Why not just turn on the TV to the channel with the wood burning fire?

9 people like this
Posted by Too much
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 4, 2015 at 4:16 pm

Well, we have a woodfire in our fireplace a couple of times of year for the enjoyment of it. Watching a fire on TV is not the same thing. Just like many things experienced on TV/Internet are not close to the actual experience.
We never have our fires on spare the air days, and I do not see why I should not be allowed to enjoy the fireplace that came with the house we bought a couple times a year.

BTW leaf blowers are not necessary. You can use a rake. You can also ride your bike and take public transportation some or much of the time. We don't use a leaf blower in our yard. We bike to work. We feel we have a right to our fireplace.

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