The Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s 2013-2014 winter Spare the Air season ended Feb. 28, with a total of 30 Winter Spare the Air alerts issued, tying the record for most alerts since the 2006-07 winter season.
The district blamed a stubborn high pressure ridge that clung off the coast throughout most of the winter blocking Pacific storms that would have helped disperse air pollution.
“While weather conditions were challenging for air quality, it would have been much worse without the help of Bay Area residents that didn’t burn wood during alerts,” said Jack Broadbent, the air district’s executive officer. “Thanks to these efforts, the largest source of wintertime air pollution in the Bay Area was greatly reduced.”
On days when air quality was expected to be unhealthy, the air district issued winter Spare the Air alerts, restricting the use of fireplaces, wood stoves and outdoor fire pits.
Surveys and preliminary air quality monitoring data indicate that the Wood Burning Rule has been an effective instrument in reducing wood smoke over the past six years in the Bay Area, the district said.
Thirty percent of Bay Area residents indicated they are burning less wood even on days when an alert has not been issued, the district said. Surveys also indicated that 75 percent of Bay Area residents support the air district’s wood burning rule.
The air district said it received a total of 5,091 wood smoke complaints from residents. A total of 267 tickets were issued to residents who were observed to be in violation of the wood burning rule. Those found to be burning during a Winter Spare the Air Alert for the first time were given the option of taking an online or written wood smoke awareness course in lieu of paying a $100 ticket.
The district received 138 complaints from Napa County and issued 15 tickets there, the district said.
The rule still requires, on a year-round basis, that residents who burn in a fireplace or outdoor fire pit burn cleanly using dry, seasoned firewood and not burn garbage, leaves or other material that would cause excessive smoke.
Residents who exceed the visible smoke provision of the wood burning rule could still be subject to a ticket, even outside the November–February winter Spare the Air season.