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Winter 'Spare the Air' season starts Wednesday

District advises against burning solid fuel when an alert is in effect

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District's winter Spare the Air season starts Wednesday.

During the season, air district officials issue Winter Spare the Air alerts that make it illegal to burn wood, manufactured fire logs or other solid fuel indoors and outdoors for the upcoming day.

The alerts are issued when air quality is unhealthy due to fine particulate pollution, which is mainly from wood smoke and is exacerbated by cool temperatures and light winds, according to the air district.

The winter Spare the Air season ends Feb. 28.

Air district spokesman Walter Wallace said Bay Area residents can get text alerts by texting "START" to 817-57.

The Spare the Air program started in 1991 as a voluntary program. In 2008, regulations were passed that make it illegal to burn wood when a Spare the Air alert has been issued.

Natural gas, propane and electric fireplaces can be used during a Spare the Air alert, but the use of pellet stoves, wood stoves and outdoor fire pits are prohibited.

Recreational fires at Ocean Beach in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area are banned through the end of February.

Wood smoke has been linked to respiratory illnesses and increased risk of heart attacks. Wood smoke also contains substances that cause cancer.

Residents who violate the rule one time have the option to take a class instead of paying a fine of $100.

Residents who violate the rule a second time must pay a $500 fine. Subsequent fines are higher.

To find out whether a Spare the Air alert has been issued, residents can call (877) 4NO-BURN or can visit www.sparetheair.org or www.baaqmd.gov.

Residents can sign up for email alerts at www.sparetheair.org, can sign up for phone alerts by calling (800) 430-1515 or can download the Spare the Air smartphone app for iPhone or Android.

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— Bay City News Service

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