Spare the Air Alert Issued for New Year's Day

Due to potential poor air quality in the Bay Area, indoor and outdoor fires are banned on Jan. 1 for 24 hours.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) has issued its first Winter Spare the Air Alert of the 2012 season for Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. Burning wood, manufactured fire logs or any other solid fuel — either indoors and outdoors — is banned for 24 hours.

The ban — making it illegal to light a New Year's Day fire — has been put in place to avoid trapping pollutants in atmosphere, according to the district. Cold, still weather conditions due to continue through mid-week cause air to cool close to the ground, creating an inversion layer of warmer air above, explained the Bay Area Air Quality Management District in a press release. In windless conditions, wood smoke and other pollution can get trapped under this lid of warm air can and build up rapidly to unhealthy levels.

"Sitting by the fire during the holidays may conjure up fond memories, but it’s important that everyone forgoes burning during this alert so we can all enjoy a happy, healthy holiday," said Jack Broadbent, executive officer of the Air District in the release.

The district says that exposure to wood smoke — as with cigarette smoke — has been linked to serious respiratory illnesses and even increased risk of heart attacks. Breathing fine particles or soot accounts for more than 90 percent of premature deaths related to air pollution, according to BAAQMD.

It is illegal for Bay Area residents and businesses to use their fireplaces during a Spare the Air Alert. Woodstoves and inserts, pellet stoves, outdoor fire pits, or any other wood-burning devices are included in the ban. An exemption is available for residents and businesses that burn wood as their sole source of heat and have no other permanently installed heating source, according to the district.

Before lighting a fire during the Winter Spare the Air season, which runs from November 1 through February 28, check to ensure that no bans are in place. Find the daily burn status: 

Wood smoke is the largest source of wintertime air pollution in the Bay Area, according to BAAQMD, and contains harmful pollutants such as particulate matter and carbon monoxide, as well as toxins which are linked to increased cancer rates in adults. In the winter, wood smoke from the 1.4 million fireplaces and wood stoves in the Bay Area contributes about one-third of the harmful particulate pollution in the air.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (www.baaqmd.gov) is the regional agency responsible for protecting air quality in the nine-county Bay Area.

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