The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has announced that wood burning is banned in the region again today, making this the 22nd "Winter Spare the Air" day of the season.
District spokesman Tom Flannigan explained that winds are light, and the weather is forecast to be dry and mild in the region mid-week. The stagnant air has allowed pollutants to accumulate close to the ground, making the air unhealthy to breathe.
"We haven't been seeing the rain we usually get that helps clean out the air," he said.
Flannigan pointed out that children, the elderly and those with asthma and other respiratory problems suffer when the air is thick with unhealthy particulate matter.
He said a fire in the fireplace "looks nice inside your house, and you can't see the effects it has on other people."
On Winter Spare the Air days, the burning of wood, manufactured fire logs or any other solid fuel is illegal both indoors and outdoors. Homes that depend on woodstoves or fireplaces as their only source of heat are exempt from the ban.
Those who get in trouble for violating the ban for the first time are given the choice of paying $100 or taking a wood smoke awareness class. Subsequent violations are met with fines of $500 or more.
Bay Area residents are advised to check the region's burn status before lighting a fire on any given day by visiting the air district's website at www.sparetheair.org or calling (877) 4-NO-BURN.
Flannigan thanked Bay Area residents in advance for observing the wood-burning ban even though it might put a damper on their holiday celebrations.
"By not burning wood, you're helping to create a healthier breathing environment for everyone in the Bay Area," he said.
Winter Spare the Air season runs from Nov. 1 to Feb. 28.