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Burn Ban Spurs 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.

David Ross January 01, 2012 at 02:32 AM
Having a fire place and defecating in a neighbor's living room is not the same thing. Actually, I don't even know why I'm wasting electrons to reply to such an absurd statement.
Observer January 01, 2012 at 06:24 AM
Mr. Ross, I agree with your statement, “Having a fire place and defecating in a neighbor's living room is not the same thing”. During a spare the air day smoke infiltrating a neighbor’s home is stinky, unhealthy and can injure and possibly kill a person with COPD. Perhaps you have heard the saying, “Your right to swing a baseball bat ends at my head”. Let us learn from the educated experts who use Science to uncover the facts of our world. See the “Bay Area Air Quality District” website: Wood Burning Rule Information - New Wood Burning Regulation 6, Rule 3: Wood-Burning Devices http://www.baaqmd.gov/?sc_itemid=156191E5-F112-4633-935E-FE9B58272325
David Ross January 01, 2012 at 01:44 PM
No, I need educated experts OUTSIDE of the government to uncover the "facts of our world." The so-called experts inside the government have the incentive of painting the bleakest picture possible to maintain their jobs. Don't forget it was the "educated experts" who said the world was flat and the sun revolved around the earth.
Observer January 01, 2012 at 06:04 PM
O.K. You prefer experts from outside of government. Would you believe a non-profit Health organization? Environment and Human Health, Inc. at: http://www.ehhi.org/ If this is not to your liking, go to Google, there are dozens and dozens of non-government organizations that warn smoke particulate and gases are harmful to our health. You refer to “educated experts”. That was back when religious zealots were advising European governments not scientist such as Kepler, Copernicus and Galileo. Checkmate! Thanks for the chatter.
David Ross January 02, 2012 at 12:58 AM
Not a checkmate yet. It wasn't the "religious zealots" who started the belief in a geocentric earth. It was Anaximander, Plato, Aristotle, and Claudius Ptolemaeus, among others, who came up with a geocentric earth. A later astronomer, Tycho Brahe, believed in this also. Regarding Environment and Human Health, Inc.: I cannot located where they get the majority of the funding from. In any case, while wood particulates are not healthy, I think the AQMD is over blowing the dangers in the 6,984, square miles that the Bay Area covers. I was up early this morning - it was breezy. I'm looking out my window now. There's a breeze. Yet because there may be ONE area in this 6,984 square miles, the AQMD is telling EVERYBODY that they can't enjoy a fire in their fireplace.

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