Would You Report Your Neighbor for Burning Wood on a Spare the Air Day?

In two years, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District has collected $800 in fines for illegal residential wood burning.

Patch Staff

Last winter, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District received 3,777 citizen complaints about residential wood burning during the season’s 15 Spare the Air days. Those complaints resulted in a total of 346 warnings to wood burners in nine counties and 13 tickets carrying a $400 fine (See table below).

Aaron Richardson, a spokesman for the BAAQMD, said by email that the agency has only collected $800 in fines from the previous two winters, but that the chief point of banning wood fires on certain winter days is about improving air quality, not raising revenue. He added that early studies suggest that wood burning may be down by 15 percent from five years ago.

Here’s Richardson on how the BAAQMD enforces wood burning bans:

“We have about 70 inspectors on staff, and though not all of them are dispatched at any one time for wood burning duty, we send out patrols of various sizes on Winter Spare the Air days, depending on the day and availability.

“Inspectors must witness and document a violation to issue a citation. We track all complaints received and use those to help plan neighborhoods to patrol.

“They look for smoke, and are trained in smoke plume recognition and opacity, and they must go to the physical location of the fire to determine and document the source before writing a citation.”

Warnings and Tickets Issued for Wood Burning on Winter Spare the Air Days Winter 2010-2011 (4 days of ban) Winter 2011-2012 (15 days of ban) County Warnings Tickets Warnings Tickets Alameda 5 0 10 0 Contra Costa 5 1 57 4 Marin 5 0 48 3 Napa 0 0 51 1 San Francisco 0 0 1 0 Santa Clara 13 1 32 2 San Mateo 2 0 31 1 Solano 0 0 8 0 Sonoma 29 0 108 2 Total 59 2 346 13

Source: BAAQMD

This season, first time offenders, who would have previously received a warning letter, will now be obliged to attend a class on the public health impacts of wood smoke.

Tuesday and Wednesday were both Spare the Air days, while on Thursday the BAAQMD asked people to voluntarily forgo wood fires.


Tom January 06, 2013 at 06:45 AM
Drunk drivers too. If I was drinking/driving before it became illegal, I could continue to drink and drive, because I was doing this before. Grandfather me in.
Amy Zucker Morgenstern January 06, 2013 at 02:28 PM
Sure I would. I love a fire in the fireplace as much as the next person, but the fact is that that smoke is killing people. The "surveillance state" some worry about is actually we, the people, asking everyone to be responsible and not create a public health hazard. I would report my neighbor for dumping perchlorate or throwing their garbage bags into the Bay, too--wouldn't you? If we don't want to pay the fine, we know how to avoid it.
JoeD January 07, 2013 at 05:40 AM
I agree, pretty stupid. I don't think wood burning is really contributing to clear air as much as many of the buses in the Bay Area running on natural gas, increase in more efficent vehicle, and recently the number of electric vehicle. How the heck is one able to roast chestnuts without a small fire. I would never tell, and won't care to much for the person that does.
MarianneB January 08, 2013 at 02:23 AM
won't be long before they're going to ban wood fires altogether. They are working their way in that direction.
Bing January 18, 2013 at 03:28 AM
This whole subject pisses me off. Why not offer a deal for trade ins for old wood stoves for newer efficient burning ones? Hey L how about reporting your neighbor for having his grass cut weekly and yard cleaned with that leaf blower ? The leaf blower pollutes more the 30 cars in a year. How many do I hear blasting off everyday? Get real! I should be able raise food, keep warm and survive without depending on government or lining another business's(pg&e) pockets. Reporting your neighbor just because he or his family are trying to keep warm is outrageous in fact sinful. Worry about particulates coming from China and your elitist neighbors pouring all those chemicals on their grass so it can look pretty....time to cull the heard of stupid people.


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