Weather conditions forecast for today are expected to create unhealthy air quality and have prompted officials to declare the first winter Spare the Air Day of the season.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District announced Tuesday that air quality was expected to be unhealthy due to conditions that will trap smoke in the air close to the ground.
The alert bans the indoor and outdoor burning of wood, manufactured firelogs, or any other solid fuel. During winter months, wood smoke is the leading cause of wintertime air pollution in the Bay Area, air district executive officer Jack Broadbent said in a statement.
"Smoke from one person's fire pollutes the air around surrounding neighbors' homes," he said.
The air district is the regional agency chartered with protecting air quality in the nine-county Bay Area. Wood smoke contains harmful pollutants, such as soot and carbon monoxide, and toxins such as dioxin, which has been linked to increased cancer rates in adults.
About one-third of the harmful soot in the winter air can be attributed to wood smoke from the 1.4 million fireplaces and wood stoves in the Bay Area, according to the district.
The pollutants can cause breathing difficulties, especially in children, seniors, and those with heart of lung conditions. Residents must check the daily burn status -- which can be found online at www.baamqd.gov -- before burning wood during the Winter Spare the Air season, which began Nov. 1 and runs through Feb. 28.
Those who choose to flout the wood-burning ban could face hefty fines. First-time offenders will receive a warning, but a second violation is subject to a $400 ticket. Subsequent violations will result in steeper fines, although the district did not disclose specific numbers.
Residents and businesses that burn wood as their only source of heat are exempt from the ban. Stagnant air conditions last week caused air officials to ask residents to voluntarily refrain from wood burning, which succeeded in preventing the need to declare a Spare the Air day then.