Yes, you guessed it, the Bay Area Air Quality Management district has deemed both Friday and Saturday to be yet another no-burn day — the 20th and 21st such alert since the region's Winter Spare the Air season began nearly two months ago.
There have been more wood burning bans called this season — which is only half over — than in any year since the Bay Area pollution rule began in late 2008. Air quality district officials blame this winter's extraordinary dry stagnant cold weather for the record number of no-burn days.
“Winter weather and air pollution go hand in hand,” said Tom Flannigan, a spokesman for the air quality district. “We haven't seen the rain and wind we usually see that helps us clean out the air.”
When a Spare the Air day is called, it's illegal for Bay Area residents and businesses to use fireplaces, wood stoves, pellet stoves, outdoor fire pits or any other wood-burning devices. Those who violate the rule will be given the option of taking a wood smoke awareness class, online or by mail, or pay a $100 fine. Second violations will bring a $500 ticket. The penalty with increase from there with subsequent violations.
In Sonoma County, the bay area district boundaries generally include the land south of Windsor.
Flannigan said that pollution from burning wood comprises the largest share of winter pollution in the Bay Area. Wood smoke makes up 38 percent of winter particulate matter, compared to 15 percent for vehicle exhaust, 12 percent for geological sources such as mountain dust and 11 percent for factory combustion, according to the air district website.
The record number of no-burn days has shattered the previous record of 15 during the 2011/2012 season. The Spare the Air season lasts from Nov. 1 to Feb. 28. By comparison, only 4 no-burn alerts were called during the 2010/2011 season.