For local firewood seller Glenn Kantock, the goal of the Bay Area no-burn rule is obvious — to put an end, once and for all, to wood burning.
This year, he said, the Spare the Air effort has a powerful conspirator and, no, it's not PG&E.
"It just so happens that nature is cooperating with them," said Kantock, the owner of All Seasons Firewood in Santa Rosa.
"This year, at the time that people need to use the wood the most, they can't use it or are afraid to use it," Kantock said.
Less than halfway into the Bay Area Air Quality Management District's four-month Winter Spare the Air season, the number of 24-hour wood-burning bans is off the charts, though district officials would not say whether wood-burning violations were up over last year.
Saturday's no-burn alert marks the 21st, compared to the previous record of 15 during the entire 2011-2012 season. Also, there thus far have been 10 days that the Bay Area's air quality has exceeded federal safety levels, compared to 13 for the entire 2008-2009 season, which was the first Spare the Air season.
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.
Kantock said the record number of no-burn alerts has caused a great deal of frustration among his customers, as well as some of his employees.
"What's lacking is a clear explanation or definition of why we need Spare the Air days," he said, adding that some feel there's "no compassion" toward those who rely on wood heat even though the no-burn rule does exempt those who rely on wood burning as their only source of heat.
Business has been slow this season, Kantock said.
On Friday, David Goins of Healdsburg filled his trailer with a a half-cord, or 64 cubic feet, of firewood from Kantock's stock. Firewood is the only source of heat in Goins' Chalk Hill Road farmhouse, which sits just north of the air quality district's northern boundary, just above Windsor.
This is the domain of the Northern Sonoma County Air Pollution Control District, which does not prohibit the use of wood-burning stoves and fireplaces.
The Winter Spare the Air season, which lasts from Nov. 1 to Feb. 28, is an effort to reduce air pollution during winter months. Alerts often are called when there is a high-pressure system sitting over much of the Bay Area, which creates a temperature inversion that forms an atmospheric layer and traps pollutants.
During Christmas week, the Bay Area's air quality exceeded federal health standards three time — on Sunday, Monday and Christmas Day.
Ralph Borrman, an air quality district spokesman, said district officials weigh a number of factors when calling a no-burn alert. These include weather conditions, the persistence of the inversion layer and the level of particulate matter, or PM, that's in the atmosphere.
Saturday's alert marks the sixth consecutive alert. Earlier in December, during a dry cold snap, there was a run of 11 consecutive 24-hour alerts.
"We really haven't had rain ... that speaks to the general weather pattern," Borrman said. "It's not only impacting the Bay Area but also Central California. We have never really experienced something longer than four days at a time. It is an unusual winter weather pattern this year."