Would You Report a Neighbor for Burning Wood on Spare the Air Day?

In two years, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District has collected $800 in fines for illegal residential wood burning.

More than 50 times last winter, Napa County residents blew the whistle on their neighbors for burning solid fuel on Spare the Air days, when burning is banned.

But their 51 complaints resulted in just one ticket being issued to a violator, according to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, which issues Spare the Air alerts and enforces the burn bans.

Last winter, the district received 3,777 citizen complaints about residential wood burning during the season’s 15 Spare the Air days. Those complaints resulted in a total of 346 warnings to wood burners in nine counties and 13 tickets carrying a $400 fine (See table below).

Aaron Richardson, a spokesman for the BAAQMD, said by email that the agency has only collected $800 in fines from the previous two winters, but that the chief point of banning wood fires on certain winter days is about improving air quality, not raising revenue. He added that early studies suggest that wood burning may be down by 15 percent from five years ago.

Here’s Richardson on how the BAAQMD enforces wood burning bans:

“We have about 70 inspectors on staff, and though not all of them are dispatched at any one time for wood burning duty, we send out patrols of various sizes on Winter Spare the Air days, depending on the day and availability.

“Inspectors must witness and document a violation to issue a citation.  We track all complaints received and use those to help plan neighborhoods to patrol.

“They look for smoke, and are trained in smoke plume recognition and opacity, and they must go to the physical location of the fire to determine and document the source before writing a citation.”

Warnings and Tickets Issued for Wood Burning on Winter Spare the Air Days Winter 2010-2011 (4 days of ban) Winter 2011-2012 (15 days of ban) County Warnings Tickets Warnings Tickets Alameda 5 0 10 0 Contra Costa 5 1 57 4 Marin 5 0 48 3 Napa 0 0 51 1 San Francisco 0 0 1 0 Santa Clara 13 1 32 2 San Mateo 2 0 31 1 Solano 0 0 8 0 Sonoma 29 0 108 2 Total 59 2 346 13

Source: BAAQMD

This season, first-time offenders, who would have previously received a warning letter, will now be obliged to take an online class on the public health impacts of wood smoke. 

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MICHAEL P WILSON "Independent Kid" January 05, 2013 at 12:34 AM
No I would not, I am exempt from this law. So burn a tire for all I care.
Valerie jones January 05, 2013 at 12:53 AM
What about people who suffer from arthriest. The heater just doesn't cut it like my stove! What about us? Besides who shuts those refineries down for all of there pollution? There's the real problem! Bet you've heard that before too!
Gary January 05, 2013 at 01:01 AM
I'll continue to burn my EPA certified Clean burning woodstove until they ban cigarette smoking on the No Burn Days. What's Fair is Fair, don't you think?
MICHAEL P WILSON "Independent Kid" January 05, 2013 at 01:12 AM
They will also need to ban structure fires and Carbecue. What about marijuana smoke is it not toxic?
Belle (Orchid Lady) January 05, 2013 at 01:27 AM
Rk-that comment about the man found dead is inappropriate don't ya think? Would you remove please? Maybe?
MICHAEL P WILSON "Independent Kid" January 05, 2013 at 01:34 AM
Looks like a man in a tent was found dead, under the Maxwell bridge. He should have had a fire going down there. I would bet the cold got him.
MICHAEL P WILSON "Independent Kid" January 05, 2013 at 01:37 AM
Sorry Belle You know my pessimistic side, types this stuff. Sorry to offend
Frank Thompson January 05, 2013 at 08:07 AM
I have asthma and there are three neighbors who start wood fires and thier smoke settles around my house causing distressed breathing problems. Two of them leave thier homes soon after lighting the fires. Why must I suffer when they don't even stay home to enjoy the fire? The biggest problem is the vineyards burnning the vine cuttings. I then am required to stay home on a breathing machine. There must be some alternative like mulching and composting? As for the medical MJ smoking, What about the no smoking laws? Why must I suffer medical problems for thier "medical benifits? I no longer use my BarBeque because it bothers me and probably others like me. I realize others have certain rights but when thier smoke enters my house what happens to my rights?
Harold Edwards January 05, 2013 at 08:43 AM
I just put 4 of my car tires in the fireplace,they burn nice & wam as long as you have a good bed of hot coals . The house smells like toxic hell.Thanks a lot !
bucket January 05, 2013 at 02:04 PM
I am reposting this post from a prior article- Let's face it...Everyone does something that annoys another and effects our air. The five most common reasons for air pollution in order are: 1) Burning fuels from power plants. 2) Modes of Transportation. 3) Large life stock farms. 4) Spraying Pesticides. 5) Natural-Forest Fires and volcanic events, Sorry for the folks that have asthma, seems everyone has something...but before firing off (excuse the pun), please remember if you use your heater etc, drive a car, eat animal, eat fruits or vegetables; drink juice or wine, ect., then your use and consumption touches others too and you are part of the problem. You neighbors "smoke settles", and perhaps, your exhaust settles around them. And are we now going to push for a ban on BBQ 'S also? One should clean up their own footprint and make sure not to produce or consume anything that contributes as in the above before throwing rocks...We can't just pick out one problem and attack. Not all folks start a fire to "enjoy", some of us actually warm the house with this method...
Calistogan January 05, 2013 at 03:50 PM
No I would not report any one ! I burn whenever I wish to. Besides I'd most likely die from radiation from my cell phone entering my ear drum while in on the phone to the Bay area Air Quality waiting for some one to answer! And pointing my T.V. Remote to my head and pulling the enter button. Take 50,000 Illegal aliens and their un insured cars off the highways, It will all balance out.
Unfiltered Steve Simoneau January 05, 2013 at 08:02 PM
It isn't your fault you have asthma, it isn't my fault that you have it either. Or your neighbor's fault. Or the winery's fault. Since it's nobody's fault that you have it then it means that it's your problem, not mine/neighbor's/winery's. We all have problems, and it's our own responsibility to handle them in the best way we can. I wear glasses for being near-sighted, I don't blame people for making printing too small. Shrimp makes me gag (even the smell), so I don't order it instead of complaining to the chef that they need to remove it from a dish so I can eat it. I used to have neighbors with a yard full of junk outside my bedroom window, so I bought blinds that I could open to let light in without seeing their yard. They were also very noisy so I MOVED. You live in your environment of choice. If the activities of other people's lives around you make you miserable then it's time to CHOOSE to live somewhere that it doesn't happen. You can't expect anyone else to do something about your problem if you aren't willing to do something yourself.
Penny January 05, 2013 at 08:02 PM
there are many of us who are exempt from the ban on wood burning because we do not have central heat. It's alot of work keeping a fire going and there are costs of having the chimney cleaned 2 times a year and buying the correct firewood, plus hauling it in to be burned. It is a nice dry heat also.
Unfiltered Steve Simoneau January 05, 2013 at 08:05 PM
The only time I would say something to my neighbors about burning something is if it was their house.
Linda January 06, 2013 at 01:37 AM
No I would not! Soon there will be nothing left to regulate the way this state is going. Pathetic!
Belle (Orchid Lady) January 06, 2013 at 06:20 AM
Rk- c'mon. I knew that man. I bought him lunch a few times, and had quick chats with him. I get you like to say snotty things now and then, but that comment really does bother me. I am not going to 'report' your comment because I am sincerely hoping you can be sensitive enough to understand on your own. Time will tell I suppose.
Larry Cereghino January 06, 2013 at 06:15 PM
No,,, I would not report for burning wood..... now lets report people stillon cell phones in Napa...I took a walk one day..almost got hit in the crosswalk,,she was on her phone...I could read her lips..I'm sorry..well sorry wont work if she had hit me.. I had parked my truck for spare the air day.....or save the gas day...... people put down them phones.....not worth the almost $300.00 ticket.........
Ash Leigh January 09, 2013 at 11:52 PM
No. I would not report my neighbors. I'm lucky to not have been reported at times when I burned, not knowing it was spare the air. I do check now, **sigh** and stay a little cold. I can't afford for my heat to be running at a comfortable temp. on these cold-cold days. I am grateful and lucky, to be friends with arborist that I can trade work, for a winters supply of seasoned wood. Here, I thought life would be easier moving to Cali. Too many rules and regulations.
Leo Olyn January 10, 2013 at 12:28 AM
Oregon here I come..........


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