Some may call the air quality district managers scrooges while many others will be able to breathe a sigh of relief today as a "Spare the Air" alert makes wood-burning illegal on Christmas Day.
The alert issued for today will prevent most Bay Area residents from burning wood, manufactured fire logs or any other solid fuel on Christmas.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District Thursday issued the alert, the third of the winter Spare the Air season.
The ban applies to both indoor and outdoor fires in fireplaces, woodstoves, fire pits, or other wood-burning spaces.
Homes without permanently installed heating, where woodstoves or fireplaces are the only source of heat, are exempt from the ban, according to officials. Fires used for cooking are also exempt from the ban.
Stagnant, cold weather conditions brought the region into the "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups" category of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Air Quality Index.
District spokeswoman Lisa Fasano said the lack of wind in the region is causing the amount of particulate pollution to rise.
District officials are warning children, the elderly, and people with heart and lung problems to limit outdoor exertion since they are the most susceptible to the harmful effects of wood smoke.
The first Spare the Air alert in the winter season was issued on Thanksgiving, while a second was declared Dec. 9.
Fasano said air district officials do not take into account how many people may be burning wood during the holidays when deciding on whether to issue an alert.
"It has nothing to do with figuring there's going to be a lot of burning or not," she said. "It just turns out that cold, calm weather has happened on two holidays."
The winter Spare the Air season runs from Nov. 1 through Feb. 28. The daily air quality forecast is available at www.baaqmd.gov or www.sparetheair.org.