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Winter Wood Burning: Read the Rules, Take Our Poll

During the winter it is generally illegal to use fireplaces, wood stoves and any other indoor or outdoor woodburning system when an alert has been issued. Fines are possible.

The Winter Spare the Air season has started, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District reminds local residents. It runs through Feb. 29. 

Read about the district's rules on fireplace use and wood burning during the winter, then scroll to the bottom of the story to take our poll and register your opinion.

Each day by 2 p.m., the Air District issues an air quality forecast for the next day. If air quality is forecast to be unhealthy, a Winter Spare the Air Alert will be called. The alert will be in effect the entire next day, for a full 24 hours.

During a Winter Spare the Air Alert, the use of fireplaces, pellet stoves, wood stoves, fireplace inserts and outdoor fire pits is generally illegal, according to an Air District press release.

Fires for cooking are not prohibited during Winter Spare the Air Alerts, but the Air District asks the public to be mindful of air quality and recommends the use of gas and propane barbecues rather than wood or charcoal-fired cooking devices on these days.

There are also exceptions for those whose only source of heat is a wood-burning device.

First-time violators are issued a warning letter. Those who are found in violation a second time are issued a citation and are subject to a $400 fine. Repeat violators who continue to burn in violation of the regulation face increasing financial penalties.

If you spot a violation, you can can file a wood smoke complaint online.

During the winter, wood smoke is the largest source of harmful soot pollution, the Air District says. Follow these district links to learn about the health effects of wood smoke, the Wood Burning Rule and how to comply with it, and answers to some Frequently Asked Questions about the Winter Spare the Air program.

Residents and business owners who own or use any indoor or outdoor fireplace, fire pit or wood or pellet stove can do the following:

  • Call 1-877-4NO-BURN (1-877-466-2876)
  • Sign up for automatic phone alerts by calling 1-800-430-1515
  • Sign up for email AirAlerts 
Tim December 06, 2011 at 11:58 PM
What a sad state of affairs when some unelected bureaucracy can dictate these insane mandates on our freedoms. The California Air Resources Board and the various AQMDs and APCDs in this state are becoming more and more like the old Soviet politburo. Hell, they even have a web form for you to click on and rat our your neighbor to Big Brother for the criminal act of having a fire in your fireplace.
gato pelon December 07, 2011 at 06:16 AM
So this year the fireplace Nazi are back. I'm glad the fireplace Nazi can't find me or even see me and they never will. Because I'm going to burn! They were real quite last winter. We had a lot more rain last year at this time. I burn every night. When it's cold like last night the stove burned all night and most of today and will go all night tonight and most of the day tomorrow. I go though 4 cords a winter. I've all ready burned though 1. Thing is that lots of homes have a fireplace and most people never use them. It's just to much a headache and to dirty. Lot's of the newer homes have gas fireplaces. So how many wood fires could there really be?
Tim December 07, 2011 at 07:51 AM
You want to get rid of the "fireplace Nazis?" Thanks to the GOP takeover of the House, Chairman Darrell Issa has launched an investigation into the California Air Resources Board... http://killcarb.org/
Tony Doot December 07, 2011 at 03:58 PM
Damned if you do - damned if you don't. Try to cut back on the PG&E bills and you get fined by the Air Quality board?! There is more than enough hot air in Sacramento to blow whatever pollution is created all the way to China. Pretty soon we are going to have a Boxer or Brief Control board and even more hot air.
gato pelon December 07, 2011 at 04:17 PM
No Tim, I don't want to get rid of the fireplace Nazis. They don't bother me, never have and never will. I'm out of sight out of mind. The Nazis need job's to. But the assault on EPA by the Republican majority will only add to the list of clownish moves that they continue to make, mainly doing nothing and saying NO to anything and everything.
Steve Shambaugh December 07, 2011 at 05:42 PM
6 years ago, we purchased the top of the line fireplace insert in order to heat our home with as little impact as possible to our neighbors. $5,000.00 worth I might add. It emits something like 1.2 grams per hour of solids during operation. When it runs, we don't have to use the heater even when it gets below freezing. Is there any allowance for this? NO! All houses, whether open hearth or energy efficient, are treated the same. This is as unfair as I can say politely. I did contact the Bay Area Air Quality Management District last year asking by what authority they can restrict private property use to which I received a "standard" reply of constitutionality of their power as provided for by law. The person who replied: a Public Information "Officer". This stinks badly and not like burning wood...
gato pelon December 07, 2011 at 06:06 PM
Two years I replaced my old stove with EPA approved low emission rated wood stove. This EPA rated stove was the only kind of stove they were aloud to sell. This stove was suppose to be good to use according to the EPA, but then they changed their mind. When my stove is going you are unable to see any smoke rising from my stack. It burns very, very clean. I only burn almond, it burns to a fine white ash. I'm going to continue to burn! Boy that stove feel good this morning!
Tim December 07, 2011 at 06:07 PM
Nice gato... so as long as the fireplace nazis can't find you then its's ok and the hell with your neighbors. I hope I end up seeing smoke from your fireplace and I will be the first to notify aqmd. You may think you are off their radar, that is until you aren't. Yes, the fireplace nazis nazis need jobs too. Let them go find legitimate ones. I can't wait until they do catch you and you get cited and fined by this unelected, unconsitutional "authority". I fully support Darrell Issa's effort to eliminate CARB.
Tim December 07, 2011 at 06:10 PM
Gato, ash is ash and it is visible and particulate matter is detectable by aqmd instruments as well. You think that you are under their radar but eventually you'll be caught and you will be singing a different tune.
gato pelon December 07, 2011 at 06:26 PM
I'm not perfect like you Tim. I've not taken any shots at you, but you just go crazy. These are the facts! It's not going to happen. The fireplace Nazis can look until there blue in the face and they will not find, see or smell my smoke. Simple as that! I've been burning wood here for 32 years. The last three years the Fireplace Nazis have been in business hasn't changed a thing.
gato pelon December 07, 2011 at 06:33 PM
Tim, Were done. Your unable to grasp even the simplest of statements.
Tim December 07, 2011 at 07:03 PM
Yes we're done because for gato its all about gato and the hell with his neighbors. You're (not your) unable to have any consideration for your fellow human beings out there.
Rob Sorensen December 07, 2011 at 10:51 PM
Air Quality Brd is a $1B agency which uses very questionable science, or lack thereof, to act as a surrogate for Sierra Club. They are the single biggest waste of taxpayers money. Do we really need a group to drive around ticketing citizens at Christmas time?
Nadja Adolf December 08, 2011 at 08:45 AM
I think the law needs to be changed. I have a pellet stove; it takes 10,000 pellet stoves to equal the pollution output of 100 EPA stoves or one fireplace. The law is ridiculous.
Tim December 08, 2011 at 03:41 PM
How many pellet stoves does it take to equal the pollution related to Al Gore's carbon footprint from his private jet?

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