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Officials Say Dry Winter to Blame for Highest Number of 'Spare the Air' Days in Years

The air district received over 5,0000 wood smoke complaints this season.

By Bay City News Service—      

The 2013-2014 Winter Spare the Air Season, which ended Feb. 28, tied a record set in 2006-2007 for the most Spare the Air alerts issued, Bay Area Air Quality Management District officials said this week. 
 
The season's long stretch of warm weather blocked winds and storms that would have helped dispel air pollution, triggering multiple Spare the Air alerts, officials said. 

The use of wood-burning stoves and fireplaces is prohibited on Spare the Air days. 

"This dry winter brought with it an unprecedented stretch of bad air quality and no-burn days," said Jack Broadbent, the air district's executive officer. 

[Related article: Governor Declares Drought Emergency In California]
 
The air district received a total of 5,091 wood smoke complaints from residents and issued 267 tickets to residents observed to be in violation of the ban on wood burning, officials said. 
 
For the first time this year, those found to be in violation were given the option of completing an online or written wood smoke awareness class rather than paying a $100 ticket. A second violation carries a fine of $500. 
 
So far 136 Bay Area residents have chosen to take the test, but that number is expected to rise, officials said.


Stephen Allen March 12, 2014 at 11:14 AM
Every year I get more disgusted with the no burn rules and the fireplace police. Sure, if someone is really having smoky fires all the time, then they should get some "attention", but you know what? Leave the rest of us alone! The fires I have are with seasoned wood and do not send up much smoke at all once it gets going. I think these people need to look to other ways they can restrict the public. What about no driving days? Get into your car and you get a fine. Cars are a huge source of pollution and need to be reduced anyway. I'm thinking that, eventually, the high gas prices will do that by itself. I burn fires to keep my house and family warm and to avoid paying for overpriced gas or electric heat. It's a way to save money. I also do not pay for my wood. I collect it over the year and burn it once it is properly seasoned. This year we had no burn nights on the coldest and most traditional nights where you would want to have a nice fire. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years .. Sheesh! It sure seems to me that they are just trying to get everyone away from having them at all by putting this program in place only during the months that people would want to have fires. Now that this stupid restriction is gone for another year. it's 50 to 60 at night. Not exactly cold enough for a fire to make any sense. Instead of focusing on the few of us who really have fires on a regular basis when needed, they should go after the largest volume of pollutants and it's not coming from chimneys!
MadMonkey March 12, 2014 at 05:26 PM
Stephan - Have you noticed that 2 years in a row Christmas eve and New Years eve have been no burn days? I tried to find older records but could not, but if I seem to remember that being the case the year prior as well. They need to have a pass on those traditional holidays.
Stephen Allen March 12, 2014 at 05:49 PM
Attn: John Yes, I do remember being quite "peeved" about that in years past as well. I agree that they should at least give us the 3 major holidays and let us have reasonable fires. Better yet, let us "self regulate" and then just go after the major offenders. I think we should have a right to heat our homes in the manner we choose. Thanks for your reply! Steve A.
MadMonkey March 12, 2014 at 07:44 PM
I hear you! I get particularly peeved when the wind is blowing from the east out to sea and we have a no burn day. Living blocks from the ocean coastal communities should not be lumped into the greater bay area. This year I really dug into the data, looking at the projected AQI that they set and base no burn days off of vs what actual numbers came in at. Almost every time their projected AQI was well over the actual number, and not by a little, by 20-40 points or more. The majority of the Spare the Air days called did not turn out to have an AQI over 100. I believe KPIX did a story on this? Any one location over a 100 AQI projection triggers a spare the air day the next day for the whole of the Bay Area, from Santa Rosa to South San Jose. There were days that Santa Rosa would have a projection of 103, for example, no-where else would be over 100 and they would call a Spare the Air day for the whole of the Bay Area. Then the actual numbers would come in and Santa Rosa would top out at 89. Below the trigger. It happened consistently all season long. I started posting the actual numbers on Spare the Air's page and calling them on it. Funny how they would respond to many other posts, but never mine. They falsify their data to fit their agenda, and since it is a "projection", when they are wrong, just chalk it up to being "better safe than sorry". Meanwhile we pay more for heating.
MadMonkey March 12, 2014 at 07:52 PM
Found it. As of Jan 14th, they were right about the AQI and calling a legitimate Spare the Air day 4 times out of 14 days. http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/green/Questionable-Spare-the-Air-Days-Issued-137323543.html

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