Winter Spare the Air season starting soon, tougher restrictions in place

May order wood-burning fireplaces shuttered 3 days earlier than actual 'Spare' ban

The Winter Spare the Air season is starting soon, and Bay Area Air Quality Management District officials say it includes new restrictions this year.

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

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% 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.

— Bay City News Service

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