Lingering Dry Weather Prompts Another Winter Spare the Air Alert for Friday

January 2, 2014 15:00 pm · 40 comments

The Bay Area is experiencing a winter with some of the worst air quality in years as a fourth consecutive “Winter Spare the Air” day was announced for Friday.

Friday will be the 26th day this season that an alert has been issued by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, which is banning wood burning in the region because of poor air quality.

A dry, stagnant weather pattern with little wind continues to linger in the Bay Area and does not appear to be leaving any time soon, air district officials said.

“Unfortunately, weather conditions that allow smoke to build up and cause public health impacts have not changed,” Jack Broadbent, executive officer of the air district, said in a statement today.

During a Spare the Air day, residents and businesses cannot use fireplaces, woodstoves, outdoor fire pits or any other wood-burning devices indoors or outdoors.

Homes that only have stoves or fireplaces as a source of heat are exempt from the ban.

Violators are subject to a $100 fine or the option to take a wood smoke awareness class. Violators face a $500 fine or higher for subsequent offenses.

Wood smoke has fine particles and other pollutants that make the air harmful to breathe and cause air pollution, according to the district.

Children, the elderly and those with respiratory conditions are most susceptible to the effects of poor air quality, district officials said.

This winter has seen the worst air quality since 2006, primarily due to the dry weather, air district spokesman Aaron Richardson said.

There were 30 “Winter Spare the Air” days for the entire winter season in 2006-2007.

“We are threatening our record for (alerts). And we’re only halfway through the season,” Richardson said.

The winter season started Nov. 1 and runs until Feb. 28. More information about the daily burn status is available at or by calling (877) 4-NO-BURN.

© 2014 by Bay City News, Inc. — Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.


1 The Theorist January 2, 2014 at 3:12 PM

Pure F.U.D.,_uncertainty_and_doubt

Just another power play attempting to gain more control over the populace. And we all eat it up. I’m not sure who is better at it, the far right or the far left.

If the air quality is so bad.. why not get more people off the roads, like originally, Free BART? Because union money.
Why not require the largest polluters, refineries and power plants to scale back during alert? Because lobbyist money.

Guess who doesn’t have the money to buy legislators? You and I. Vote ‘em all out while you still can. In a couple more years the SHTF and we all will pay dearly.

2 WC Boy January 2, 2014 at 3:15 PM

Shut The Front Door!

3 Bob Brittain January 2, 2014 at 3:50 PM

People that want an efficient and warm fireplace need to get a natural gas fireplace insert. Wood-burning fireplaces send most of the heat up the chimney along with the particulates causing lung damage to the neighbors. Oh, and, as WC Boy said, “Shut the Front Door!”

4 The Chosen One January 2, 2014 at 3:57 PM

At this point, they should just anounce when there’s NOT going to be a STA day.

5 the other jj January 2, 2014 at 4:15 PM

I m tired of this!!

6 Jojo Potato January 2, 2014 at 4:40 PM

Dear Mr. Mayor. Please just use a couple lines to announce these events. It’s just a waste of everyones time to read the latest excuses from yet another spokesperson. It will save us all a lot of time. Thanks.

7 J. January 2, 2014 at 4:53 PM

This morning I saw the longest straightest Contrail I have ever seen in my life. That is a testament to the stagnant air. It made for a beautiful sunrise though.

8 Bobfshed January 2, 2014 at 5:01 PM

The only wood smoke that can possibly build up is wood smoke from other sources other than home heating!
Those who are using natural gas, electricity and petroleum products are polluting the air. It’s not the ones heating their homes with wood, that has been banned most of this winter.

9 Get a clue January 2, 2014 at 5:06 PM

Ok you guys, some of you are contrary on
this fire place issue just to sound off.
The fact still remains, the ” Rumford ” type
fireplaces common in the homes in our
area are very inefficient. They suck cold air
into most homes, while as much as 80%
of heat goes out the chimney.
And your callus disregard for our air quality
is an indication of your selfish, childish i will
do it any way attitude.

10 Me January 2, 2014 at 5:26 PM

I’m cool now! I just got my order of 15 tons of coal! Now I just need to go unload it all. : ( Did you know coal burns a lot hotter than wood? I didn’t even know that.

11 Burnin January 2, 2014 at 6:01 PM

Why doesn’t OSHA require firemen to wear breathing protection when fighting brush and forest fires?

12 claycordian January 2, 2014 at 6:08 PM

Vote out Piepho and Gioia!!!!

13 Natural Gas Fumes January 2, 2014 at 6:08 PM

Your either heating your home with wood, when you can, or your heating your home with non-renewable sources derived from petroleum products which produces large amounts greenhouse gases and pollution.

14 Julio January 2, 2014 at 6:17 PM

I am much more concerned about WATER at the moment. This summer we will see rationing like never before because once again the pols have failed us.

15 #1 NRA fan and member January 2, 2014 at 6:38 PM

I can’t believe these so-called “scientists” aren’t as smart as your average Claycord commenter… I bet they get paid $200,000+ a year to be idiotic morons who don’t know a thing about pollution…

16 S January 2, 2014 at 7:10 PM

What else is new?

17 Just sayin January 2, 2014 at 7:19 PM

Countdown: 56

18 Policy of Truth January 2, 2014 at 7:40 PM

@ Bob Brittain and Get a Clue,
Both of you are correct. It is just too bad that some of the other people here already have their minds made up and don’t wish to be confused with the facts. I am ashamed of some of the foolish commentary posted by people that for all intents and purposes, should be considered adults. They are not. Seems they are only capable of posting the same BS over and over in some adolescent hope that someone might accidentally buy what they are selling. Sad really, for they have much greater issues to worry about than heating their homes with inefficient and outdated fireplaces.

@ Claycordian,
Good luck with that. If you move you might be able to vote one of them out if it makes you feel better. You like throwing the baby out with the bathwater? Go figure.

@ Burnin,
I’m not sure why OSHA doesn’t require firemen to wear breathing protection while fighting brush or forest fires. I did an online search but did not find any one clear reason. Overall, it appears their structure firefighting air tanks are too heavy for the time spent fighting large scale forest fires and respirators clog too quickly. Yours is a good question and there is probably a need for it. Invent a lightweight respirator that wouldn’t clog up and you could make millions.

19 dree January 2, 2014 at 7:52 PM

I’m tired of this too and I have asthma it’s hard to breath and I have to use my emergency inhaler. If you don’t have this issue you may not believe it’s real. I live in Pittsburg and the other day the air was so thick that I couldn’t see the wind mills across the delta. I’m hoping the weather will bring change so all of us can enjoy our fireplaces again.

20 Pro Fi January 2, 2014 at 8:16 PM

Interesting information regarding fireplaces; wood stoves and inserts:

Relative Emissions of Fine Particles:
28 – Fireplace
4.6 – Uncertified Woodstove –
1.4 – EPA Certified Woodstove
.49 – Pellet Stove
.013 – Oil Furnace
.0083 – Gas Fireplace

Finally – Until you all stop burning illegally, you can not claim that your fires are not part of the problem. The BAAQMD can not determine the TRUE amount of particulate matter that wood burning fireplaces emit and the impact unless there is 100% compliance.Those measure could then be compared to non-compliance days…. the scientific method in action. That is the ONLY way to make that determination. Your talking out your ___ to say otherwise.

21 Pro Fi January 2, 2014 at 8:31 PM

@dree – Was listening to the scanner 4 nights ago. In the 3 hours I had it on, Concord Dispatch received 5 calls for breathing problems. I do not know if any of these folks were transported. They sounded to be elderly. Hope you are doing better.

The reason I don’t burn… I care about my neighbors.

22 Natural Gas Fumes January 2, 2014 at 9:14 PM

When they claim wood fires it includes, restaurants, brush burning, structural fires, controlled burns, agricultural burns… The amount coming from heating homes is far less than 10% of total P2.5. Over 90% of the PM 2.5 is coming fom sources other than heating homes with wood.

23 Natural Gas Fumes January 2, 2014 at 9:18 PM

Given the widespread public rejection of coal—the dirtiest fossil fuel that deserves the reputation it earned itself—the gas industry has worked very hard to portray its product as a “clean” energy “alternative” fuel. Demonstrating the success of its lobbying and advertising campaigns, even the federal government increasingly refers to gas as a “clean”[1] and “alternative”[2] fuel. President Barack Obama has bought into the myth, including natural gas in his 2011 State of the Union definition of “clean energy sources.”[3]

Gas, a polluting fossil fuel, is derived from non-renewable sources of organic material formed millions of years ago.[4] It is drilled for and extracted from the earth through invasive procedures, threatening public health and the environment, especially in areas of the country with lots of drilling activity.[5]

The production, transport and burning of natural gas produces significant air pollution. Methane, the main component of natural gas, is a potent greenhouse gas (GHG), more than 20 times as effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide (CO2).[6] Other natural gas emissions include carbon dioxide (CO2), sulfur dioxide (SOX), nitrogen oxides (NOX), carbon monoxide (CO), particulates, volatile organic compounds (VOCS) including benzene, and more pollution.[7]

In fact, in rural and urban areas of the western United States where oil and gas drilling operations are abundant, air quality is significantly impacted, particularly from ground level ozone (smog).[8] The Associated Press recently reported that Wyoming’s air quality is worse than Los Angeles’ due to gas development.[9] There are increasing signs that drilling operations in the Marcellus shale region in the eastern U.S. present air pollution concerns as well.[10] Smog pollution from drilling can travel up to 200 miles from the gas production area, causing widespread damage to human and environmental health.[11]

24 Pro Fi January 2, 2014 at 9:33 PM

@ NGF – Where do you get that information from? I would like to take a read through any sources you can provide. Thanks.

25 dree January 2, 2014 at 9:39 PM

@ Pro Fi Thank you for caring and no I’m not elderly I’m only 47 with moderate asthma and I have a friend with stage 4 COPD and she can’t go outside. I’m so amazed at how I’m affected I can imagine so many others that have it harder then me. I hope we all can enjoy fires again soon.

26 Pro Fi January 2, 2014 at 9:51 PM

@dree – I am with you…. can’t wait to throw the brisket in the smoker and have at it!

27 Natural Gas Fumes January 2, 2014 at 10:06 PM

There is a world of information in the scientific community of natural gas pollution. I can list a lot of sources but all you need to do is google ” Pollution From Burning Natural Gas” let me know if you need me to list the sources for you. I burn natural gas so I wanted to know how that effected people and the environment. It’s not good at all!

28 Facts January 2, 2014 at 11:01 PM

@ Policy Of Truth, Why do you keep on saying that people are using regular fire places? and that is the problem? What about the other contributing factors that are by far out weighing the slight amount of particulate matter produced by EPA approved devices? People today are more energy efficient and aware than you keep saying. Yes there are probably some that still use the old fireplace (more for the nostalgic look) but I can almost guarantee people that are heating their homes are using EFFECIENT wood burning devices. Devices that produce slightly more of the same pollutants as your GAS burning ones. That is a published fact. In fact Pro Fi has some interesting statistics that you should pay attention to

@Pro Fi. Thanks for the posted facts on particulate matter. Slightly different than the ones posted by the District at the public hearing in Concord but still showing the same facts. Gas burning heaters/fireplaces/water heaters put out the same type of particulate matter and almost the same amount of particulate matter that EPA approved wood stoves/inserts and pellet stoves do. Yes open fireplaces were way up on the list. But the chart the district had posted showed only a piece of paper thickness between EPA approved devices and gas burning ones and both of those readings were well within the guidelines set by the US Government for health standards.

Go to the National Weather Service web-site and check out it out. They have color codes for Air Stagnation and Air Quality Alerts. These are posted when the Air Quality in that region is going to equal/exceed the Standards established by the US Government. There has NEVER been either of those posted in ANY of the areas that our so called Board “controls”.

Remember the words by the Boards leader(un-elected)”I will be glad when these public hearings are over and we can pass this law and outlaw wood burning” .

29 Pro Fi January 3, 2014 at 1:17 AM

@NGF – Forgive my skepticism, so many post “facts” on here with no way for those interested to confirm. I actually found the website I think these statements came from: I found the discussion quite enlightening. I still believe natural gas, while not the “magic pill” to reduce pollution, goes much further in reducing particulate matter, which is the primary reason wood burning is banned on those days. I really enjoy a wood fire outdoors, when camping or even in the evenings out back. But when it comes to heating the house, I have an older fireplace and it just isn’t as efficient. Besides, most of the time I find wearing a long sleeve t-shirt and sweatshirt sufficient. Someone posted a really cool way to heat with solar… I am looking into that.

@Facts – Remember the words by the Boards leader(un-elected)”I will be glad when these public hearings are over and we can pass this law and outlaw wood burning”.” Where in the bleepity bleep did you find that one? You do realize it takes about 2 minutes to confirm information. I was unable to find that statement ANYWHERE…. cite your source please.

And while EPA certified woodstoves are below the national standard I question your assertion that 1.4 and .0083 is almost the same. That is a significant difference in PM… like 168.7 times different. That is why we have STA days… PM levels. And yes it is the same PM, that was never questioned. The site you are referring to:

I think you may be assuming that most folks here use wood inserts. Just check out one of the Burn Baby Burners website: That is not an insert. And this person advocates ad nausem his/her fire doesn’t produce more PMs….. I don’t think so.

30 Facts January 3, 2014 at 9:48 AM

@ Pro Fi, Lets see. If you were at the public hearing in Concord that was held at the Senior Center you could and would have heard Mr. Jack himself speak those words. Of course they are not in any minutes anywhere as they were spoken at the back of the room to one of his people as he was leaving. Heard what I heard along with a few others at the same time.

As for the readings being the same no they are not the same and yes there is a large difference in your figures. The figures I was referring to were shown on a chart that the AQB had at the same meeting in Concord. If you would have been there you could have seen that also. BTW if the particulate matter is the same type from gas and wood burning devices (EPA approved) why then don’t they outlaw gas ones as well as there are way more gas furnaces out there burning everyday all day than wood ones . After all it is the same (particulate matter) and EPA devices are WELL within the guide lines established by the Government.

All of the people I know that burn to heat their homes are using EPA approved wood burning devices. These are serious people that have taken steps to cut down on pollution while heating their homes more efficiently at the same time. Yes here are some space cadets out there but why punish the whole for the actions of a few. According to the figures posted earlier from The Freedom of Information Act just over 1900 complaints in one month and 90 citations. 90 citations over that large of District does not sound like the problem that they state. Does that really sound like as they say(AQB) smoke from 1.4 million fireplaces which has now been changed to smoke from 1.4 million fireplaces and wood stoves. Their figures and their statements. Yes sounds like change the rules to fit the game to me.

31 Natural Gas Fumes January 3, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Another good article on pollution from natural gas. Natural gas has a lot of dirty problems that are just starting to surface, PM being one of them. There was recently a good article in the CC Times that discussed the dangers of cooking with natural gas in the home. It appears they are getting ready to regulate gas stoves and fume hoods in homes.

32 Natural Gas Fumes January 3, 2014 at 10:06 AM

Last one! One of the numbers they do not have a hande on is the amount of PM that comes after the gases from natural gas burning reacts in the atmosphere to form PM.

33 Bobfshed January 3, 2014 at 10:33 AM

I think the government in its push to help the petroleum companies by passed needed research into the hazards of natural gas. As time goes by I think you will start to see even more problems with producing and burning natural gas.

34 Pro Fi January 3, 2014 at 11:17 AM

@Facts – No I was not at the meeting. Thank you for providing context to the comment. And I agree, those that have epa certified woodstoves and inserts should be allowed to burn on STA days. I thought that was one of the selling points of upgrading to such a system. I am not against totally banning wood fires. BUT…. I am against people who decide to break the law, whether they agree with it or not. This discussion has not been taking place here.

@ NGF – Again, thank you for providing some legitimate information. No where in the skimming of the article did I read a comparison of wood vs NG. I am searching the literature to do a comparison on the gases emitted by burning wood vs NG in ppm. Will post when I get those numbers.

35 @#3 January 3, 2014 at 11:22 AM

Or you get could get a wood insert, which is also very clean burning. It is also carbon-neutral and renewable- which a gas insert is not. The federal government offers a $300 tax credit for installing one. The do NOT offer a credit for gas inserts.

You are also assuming that people have access to natural gas. My neighborhood has been here almost 40 years and PG&E still does not offer natural gas service. We have to use propane, which is 3x-4x the cost of natural gas. If your PG&E bill was 4x what it currently is, you might not be so thrilled about using your gas to heat your house.

36 tired of taxes January 3, 2014 at 12:04 PM

Saying that total atmospheric particulate is directly related to home wood burning is like saying that all lung cancer is from first and second hand smoking.
Both flawed science because both don’t consider other sources in their conclusions.

37 Facts January 3, 2014 at 5:43 PM

@Pro Fi

You do remember that the AQB offered rebates to those who upgraded to EPA approved devices so that they would be burning cleaner and avoid the STA days. My how they changed after a couple of years. The same debate was done at the different meetings which were held and always the same answer, “we are not going to allow any wood burning even with EPA devices”. Their excuse, “we would have no way to tell who has which ones”(EPA approved). It was even suggested that they do a permit system but they said that “that would be impossible to do”. Guess they hadn’t heard of computers.
As for “breaking the law” how many times a day or week do you do that? Coast through a stop sign, not completely stop at a signal when making a right turn, failing to yield to pedestrians, speed etc, etc. Yes there are those that choose to burn even on STA days and they run the same risks as everyone else that breaks the law, getting caught and paying the price. I am not going to call someone in and if they are a close neighbor that I know I might talk to them one on one. But to punish the ones who did the right thing to keep on heating with wood and then to throw it in their face well……………..

38 Buck January 3, 2014 at 6:01 PM

Way to much Government.Period!

39 Anonymous January 3, 2014 at 6:21 PM

@policy of truth

Why do I get the impression you are an intern in DeSaulniers office?

40 Policy of Truth January 3, 2014 at 9:09 PM

@ Anonymous #40,

And why do I get the impression you are the poster child for leading the race to the bottom? You strike me as a perfect example of what it means when people refer to the “Dumbing down of America”. Throw in a high level of selfishness and you complete the picture. You must make your parents proud!

As for your question (and for the record), you would be wrong. You couldn’t be any further from the truth. Wouldn’t be the first time would it?

I’m not your enemy. The facts are your enemy. Silly rookie….

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