News

New wood-burning rules as winter Spare the Air season starts

More stringent rules aim to 'further protect public health from wood smoke pollution'

With the Winter Spare the Air season beginning Tuesday, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District is reminding residents in the region about new requirements that have been added to the district's wood burning rule.

During the Winter Spare the Air season, which starts Tuesday, Nov. 1, and ends on Feb. 28, residents are prohibited from burning wood, manufactured fire logs and any other solid fuel both indoors and outdoors when a Spare the Air Alert has been issued, according to the air district.

Last year, the air district adopted a series of more stringent amendments to the wood-burning rule, which was originally passed in 2008.

According to the new requirements, anyone whose sole source of heat is a wood-burning device must use a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-certified or pellet-fueled device that is registered with the air district to qualify for an exemption.

Also, residents who begin a chimney or fireplace remodeling project that costs more than $15,000 and requires a building permit will only be allowed to install a gas-fueled, electric or EPA-certified device, according to air district officials.

In addition, no wood-burning devices of any kind may be installed in new homes or buildings being constructed in the Bay Area, air district officials said.

"Wood smoke from the Bay Area's 1.4 million fireplaces and wood stoves continues to be the largest source of wintertime air pollution in the region," air district executive officer Jack Broadbent said in a statement. "The Air District's more stringent amendments to our wood-burning rule serve to further protect public health from wood smoke pollution."

The air district will typically issue a Winter Spare the Air Alert for the next day when weather conditions trap pollution close to the ground and air quality is forecast to be unhealthy.

Air district officials can also issue an alert for up to three days in advance to keep pollution from building up and exceeding federal standards.

If an alert is issued, first-time violators of the wood-burning rule will be given the option of taking a wood smoke awareness course or paying a $100 fine. Second violations would be subject to a $500 fine, with the fines increasing for any violations after that.

Exposure to wood smoke has been linked to respiratory illnesses as well as increased risk of heart attacks and can be especially harmful to children, the elderly and people already suffering from a respiratory condition, air district officials said.

To find out when a Winter Spare the Air Alert has been issued, residents can call (877) 466-2876, visit www.sparetheair.org, sign up for automatic e-mail alerts or download a Spare the Air smartphone app.

— Bay City News Service

Comments

11 people like this
Posted by DTN Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 1, 2016 at 5:08 pm

DTN Paul is a registered user.

This is great, but it would be good if there was enforcement.


27 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 1, 2016 at 5:40 pm

Be a good neighbor. Only pump out the smoke on rainy days. On clear days, give your neighborhood kids' lungs a break. Thank you.

P.S. Regarding enforcement, look here: Web Link


24 people like this
Posted by Please!
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 1, 2016 at 7:16 pm

Please! is a registered user.

Give my lungs a break! My asthma has progressed to COPD from woodsmoke, BBQ smoke, smog from trains, cars and aircraft.

Due the tax changes instituted in 1996, we can't afford to move, so I am stuck here......

Woodsmoke is the most " dense" of all pollutants-/ please don't use a fireplace unless it is a gas type fireplace!


13 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 1, 2016 at 8:12 pm

The Winter Rules should start Oct 1 and end Apr 1. The smoke has been pretty bad for a month already.


Like this comment
Posted by Green Gables
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 2, 2016 at 10:07 am

What was the tax law change in 1996?


10 people like this
Posted by Stupid Law
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 2, 2016 at 10:28 am

Stupid Law is a registered user.

The 1996 tax law change, passed by congress, is one that most people don't know about until they try to sell their home-- then go into shock!

When you sell your house, you now pay capital gains even if you buy another house. That means you pay the IRS 25% of your profit, and you pay the state 10% of your profit! You are allowed to keep $500,000 tax free if you buy another house.

This has caused many older people, who wish to downsize, to be unable to move. They do not have enough down payment, after the taxes, to buy down a mortgage to where the payment is affordable. These people are stuck in their homes-- unless they want to move to the Midwest.


11 people like this
Posted by smoked
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 2, 2016 at 10:32 am

we have a neighbor who burns revolting charcoal smelling crap almost EVERY night. Talked to them once, didn't help that much. It goes in to the house. It's horrible! Of course they also smoke pot, cigarettes and other weird smelling stuff., so if they don't care about their own health , why would they care about anyone else's?

I really hope this can be enforced!!


15 people like this
Posted by PA Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 2, 2016 at 11:24 am

While I commend the goal and the policy of not allowing new wood-burning fireplaces to be built, essentially this approach tells those of us with existing old but working fireplaces that they are not allowed to be used as desired. Are there other instances where the government tells people they are not allowed to use an asset they currently own that is in working order? It's one thing to prevent new fireplaces from being built. It's a totally different thing to tell people that can't use something they legally purchased.


7 people like this
Posted by Toxic Fumes
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 2, 2016 at 11:30 am

What is the correct amount of Toxic Fumes that you should be permitted to release into our densely populated area? Clearly, it's the equal to the amount that, it took centuries to determine, should be allowed to be released inside a dining area or public access building. As you should have been told by your parents, it's impolite to pass GAS in public...the most potent of greenhouse gases, nitrogen dioxide.


11 people like this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 2, 2016 at 11:45 am

Just don't ! Please don't.


7 people like this
Posted by Legally Bought Lawn Darts
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 2, 2016 at 2:10 pm

I bought some lawn darts legally but they made a new law and now Ii cannot use them. They figured out they ware a danger and could cause harm to others.
I bought a house with a working fireplace, but now laws have changed because they realized the harm it was causing others.
Thing change, laws change. Keep up.


5 people like this
Posted by Member
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 2, 2016 at 10:37 pm

If folks really cared about this they should stop driving combustion engine cars. Gas cars are a stunning source of pollution with clearly terrible health effects on people. The way the government is encouraging people to move to electric vehicles is to provide some relatively short-term incentives. That's very different from telling citizens they cannot use their existing cars. Heck, why don't we start fining people who smoke on certain days? There are many other ways to encourage behavior that are forward-looking than policing individual homeowners at specific times, especially since the number of wood-burning fireplaces is declining each year because of the rules for new construction.


Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 2, 2016 at 11:38 pm

How do you enforce the rules about not making fires in the homes of Palo Alto?
In past 2 winters, sometimes when walking outside, I would still smell the strong smell of a fire. What do you do then?


18 people like this
Posted by enforcement
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 2, 2016 at 11:44 pm

If you smell smoke in the air on a Spare The Air Day, call this number to report it: Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Palo Altan
a resident of Duveneck School
on Nov 3, 2016 at 12:41 am

Thanks, enforcement, for those numbers. What do they do? Call the police? Someone is manning the phones at 10 PM?

The people across the street from us burn wood often. Why do people do this? For their enjoyment. When it affects their entire neighborhood? When I have to close my windows because there is no more fresh air? When the smoke sticks to my hair so I have to wash it that night? Selfish at its worst. They should ban any sort of burning altogether. People shouldn't have a right to affect the health of others. They banned smoking in planes and restaurants due to health reasons; this is the same thing.


Like this comment
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 3, 2016 at 12:58 am

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Legally Bought Lawn Darts - feel free to use them, it isn't illegal to play, just to sell. While playing, you can mull over a new analogy. Maybe assault rifles that are now illegal in CA?


10 people like this
Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 3, 2016 at 9:39 am

Chris Zaharias is a registered user.

We will enjoy wood fires in our fireplace when we want, which is not especially often. Here in Palo Alto, stress is public health issue #1, so if you'll permit me and mine to decompress in a way humans have done successfully for thousands of years, I'll try to cut down our frequency by 25%. Deal?


6 people like this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 3, 2016 at 11:28 am

-- We will enjoy wood fires in our fireplace when we want

Yeah, this kind of attitude is really a stress inducer to know that our neighbors are not listening and do not care.
No, it's not really a good deal to cut down on personal stress by smoking others in the city out and increasing theirs.
Want to cut down stress, go for a walk, but if people are burning wood and fouling the air that positive way to deal with stress is limited for more than just one person. See how that works?


10 people like this
Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Portola Valley
on Nov 3, 2016 at 2:36 pm

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by @Portola Valley
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 3, 2016 at 3:09 pm

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by john francisco
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 3, 2016 at 11:34 pm

in oregon they passed a law way back in the 80es if you burn wood or pilots you have to have catalickteck converter on the stack. they work great most of the time..


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

He said – she said – who is lying? Justice Brett Kavanaugh or PA resident Christine Ford
By Diana Diamond | 69 comments | 5,213 views

Let's Talk Internships
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 0 comments | 720 views

 

Race is tonight!

​On Friday, September 21, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run, or—for the first time—half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Learn More