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.

Today is the third winter Spare the Air day of the year. That means that burning wood, fire logs or solid fuel will be banned both indoors and outdoors for 24 hours.

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 take an online class on the public health impacts of wood smoke.

Would you report your neighbor? Why or why not? Tell us in the comments section below.

Edward January 24, 2013 at 01:34 AM
here is another Program worth $750.00 to replace your old stove. http://www.sparetheair.org/~/media/STA/Files/FAQ_SGV_final%2010-2012.ashx
Nadja Adolf January 24, 2013 at 03:46 AM
The problem with the program is that the people who spend the money on a new stove wind up spending $1,000 or more and get no real benefit. They still can't burn on spare the air days.
Edward January 25, 2013 at 07:23 AM
Update Again! Friday, January 25, 2013 is yet another spare the air day. I received the update at 2:31 pm in my inbox. Nice to know that Rain no longer cleans the air in Northern California. Like they have re-written the laws of physics. Looks like PG&E gets to sell off more of their poisonious methane Gas to us at inflated prices in Tier 2.
Edward January 25, 2013 at 07:28 AM
No, they look for "Hot Spots" in infrared Satilite Cameras or high altitude photo reconisance then sent you a ticket like the do at intersection Cameras. The truth is, they have "Snitches" who hate smoke. One phone call does it all.
Edward January 25, 2013 at 07:38 AM
Many counties require fireplaces have "natural Gas" burners installed with new homes or remodles. PG&E Loves this because they are less efficient than modern furnaces for more $$$$ for the Utilities. The best bet is an EPA wood stove AND a 90 % efficient Furnace for spare the air days. It also helpts to check before you light and every 4 hours because you never know when they might slip in a "Spare the Air" Alert on a day 6 hours earlyer, they gave "all Clear to burn" on their e-mail or web site. (especially when the forcast is for Rain that day).


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