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Burn Bans Spur Neighbors' Complaints

Thousands of Bay Area residents have phoned authorities to report their neighbors were burning wood illegally on Spare the Air days this winter, according to a report in the Mercury-News.

 

If you're resolved that no Spare the Air ban will keep you from enjoying a wood fire for the New Year's holiday, be aware that air-quality regulators may come knocking at your door.

According to a report in the Mercury-News, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District has received more than 2,000 complaints about wood-burning fires since Nov. 1 and hundreds over Christmas weekend.

"Regulators said more than 400 people tattled on their neighbors for lighting wood fires in their homes on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, a holiday tradition that was illegal this year because of poor air quality," writes reporter Mike Rosenberg.

Of those 400-plus complaints, Rosenberg continues, air district investigators found 77 potential violations they're looking into.

First offenders of the "Spare the Air" burn bans, issued when the district forecasts unhealthy levels of air pollution, receive a warning; the second time regulators find a resident in violation of the ban, it's a $400 ticket, Rosenberg reports.

Homes with no other source of heat are exempt from the ban, but that may not keep neighbors from dropping a dime to report wood burning.

There have been 10 Spare the Air Alerts since Nov. 1 and the season continues through Feb. 29.

It's not clear yet what the air quality will be over the New Year's weekend. The air district issues its 24-hour alerts no later than 2 p.m. the day before.

To find out if a Winter Spare the Air Alert is in effect, residents and business owners who own or use any indoor or outdoor fireplace, fire pit or wood or pellet stove can do the following:

To reach the air district with a complaint regarding:

  • Burning either indoors or outdoors during a Winter Spare the Air Alert (non-food cooking fires only);
  • Excessive smoke coming from a chimney;
  • Burning of trash, plastics, or other potentially illegal wood burning activity;

use the Online Wood smoke Complaint Form or call 1-877-4NO-BURN to report the activity.

The district also has translation services to accommodate non-English languages spoken in the Bay Area: 1-800-334-6367.

William B Roberts January 01, 2012 at 09:07 AM
I am curious how long it will be before this ends up in a court to test the constitutionality of this. What board or panel of liberals passed this law. Know what? Sanfrancisco, you people are lost to socialism anyway, so we can just write you off, but there are a lot of free thinking people still left up here in the valley so knock your selves out with your stupidity, buy yourself an electric roller scate and get out in the 70 MPH traffic along side a big rig, but just leave the rest of us alone!
Louisa Hufstader January 03, 2012 at 04:14 AM
Hi William, just FYI in response to your observations: ~San Francisco is only one of the nine counties in the air quality district; it's pretty far from Napa, where we are located. ~The air district was formed in 1955 as the Bay Area Air Pollution Control District because all nine counties share what's called a "regional air basin," with pollution crossing political boundaries. ~The regional Spare the Air alerts have been issued since 1991, but if your area is not part of the regional air basin then they are not relevant to you. ~You can become more informed by visiting sparetheair.org or baaqmd.gov, where I found the dates I cited in this comment.
Kate DePalma April 09, 2012 at 12:18 AM
Excuse me---trying to get people to burn less is a LIBERAL plot? I'm all for banning burning and I am not a "liberal"---- but I do have a science degree. SCIENCE has proven the dangers to health from wood burning. It causes damage to everyone's lungs over time--but to those with asthma etc. it can kill. WHen there were far less people crammed onto the planet--and living further apart--it was less of a problem. I'm all for individual rights and less government intrusion---so much so that I insist on my individual right to breathe my individual air without someone's smoke fouling it. I want other people's smoke off of my property and out of my lungs. All you people writing in here howling about your "right" to burn would surely be the first to howl about your property rights and anyone putting themselves onto your property or touching your body without permission. Well, your burning is touching me without my permission. What makes you think you own the air on someone else's property and can send your crap over there? If you want your right to burn, plug up your fireplace vent and let the smoke come down in your own house.
Kate Depalma April 09, 2012 at 12:20 AM
Excuse me---trying to get people to burn less is a LIBERAL plot? I'm all for banning burning and I am not a "liberal"---- but I do have a science degree. SCIENCE has proven the dangers to health from wood burning. It causes damage to everyone's lungs over time--but to those with asthma etc. it can kill. WHen there were far less people crammed onto the planet--and living further apart--it was less of a problem. I'm all for individual rights and less government intrusion---so much so that I insist on my individual right to breathe my individual air without someone's smoke fouling it. I want other people's smoke off of my property and out of my lungs. All you people writing in here howling about your "right" to burn would surely be the first to howl about your property rights and anyone putting themselves onto your property or touching your body without permission. Well, your burning is touching me without my permission. What makes you think you own the air on someone else's property and can send your crap over there? If you want your right to burn, plug up your fireplace vent and let the smoke come down in your own house.
bucket November 11, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Yikes Kate....Um, let's face it...Everyone does something that annoys another and effect our air. The five most common reasons for air pollution in order are: 1) Burning fuels from power plants. 2) Modes of Transportation. 3) Large lifestock farms. 4) Spraying Pesticides. 5) Natural-Forest Fires and volcanic events, So while firing off (excuse the pun), please remember if you use your heater etc, drive a car, eat animal, eat fruits or vegetables; your use and consumption touches others without their permission. Same can be said about your car as you advised for others fireplace...plug the exhause pipe and let the exhaust fill your own car...not my air. Sorry...but again, we can't just pick out on problem and attack. Those in glass houses shouldn't throw rocks...

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