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Burn Bans Spur Neighbors' Complaints

Thousands of Bay Area residents have phoned authorities to report their neighbors were burning wood illegally on Spare the Air days this winter, according to a report in the Mercury-News.

 

If you're resolved that no Spare the Air ban will keep you from enjoying a wood fire for the New Year's holiday, be aware that air-quality regulators may come knocking at your door.

According to a report in the Mercury-News, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District has received more than 2,000 complaints about wood-burning fires since Nov. 1 and hundreds over Christmas weekend.

"Regulators said more than 400 people tattled on their neighbors for lighting wood fires in their homes on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, a holiday tradition that was illegal this year because of poor air quality," writes reporter Mike Rosenberg.

Of those 400-plus complaints, Rosenberg continues, air district investigators found 77 potential violations they're looking into.

First offenders of the "Spare the Air" burn bans, issued when the district forecasts unhealthy levels of air pollution, receive a warning; the second time regulators find a resident in violation of the ban, it's a $400 ticket, Rosenberg reports.

Homes with no other source of heat are exempt from the ban, but that may not keep neighbors from dropping a dime to report wood burning.

There have been 10 Spare the Air Alerts since Nov. 1 and the season continues through Feb. 29.

It's not clear yet what the air quality will be over the New Year's weekend. The air district issues its 24-hour alerts no later than 2 p.m. the day before.

To find out if a Winter Spare the Air Alert is in effect, residents and business owners who own or use any indoor or outdoor fireplace, fire pit or wood or pellet stove can do the following:

To reach the air district with a complaint regarding:

  • Burning either indoors or outdoors during a Winter Spare the Air Alert (non-food cooking fires only);
  • Excessive smoke coming from a chimney;
  • Burning of trash, plastics, or other potentially illegal wood burning activity;

use the Online Wood smoke Complaint Form or call 1-877-4NO-BURN to report the activity.

The district also has translation services to accommodate non-English languages spoken in the Bay Area: 1-800-334-6367.

Steve Zoet December 29, 2011 at 10:57 AM
UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!!!! I thought we lost "tattling" on eachother in fifth grade....This is in incredible, Incredibly stupid!! As we worry about our neighbors "private" fireplace fire, China opens another coal fired power every 2 weeks for as far as we can see. This is nothing but a political agenda to control us, as we are convinced we're saving the planet. This idiotic!!!! Some people need to get a life.
Tom Ontis December 30, 2011 at 02:09 AM
Next time you visit the Emergency Room when your asthma kicks up, you'll thank everyone. You righties will try to blame this on Obama too!
John K. Ruch December 30, 2011 at 05:27 AM
Mr. Zoet says: "This is nothing but a political agenda to control us, as we are convinced we're saving the planet. This idiotic!!!! Some people need to get a life." Actually Mr. Zoet, this is exactly the point. It is not about saving the planet, it is about your neighbor's kid who is suffering from asthma who is trying to get a breath of life. China can choose to let it's citizens hurt their neighbors by ruining the air; we here in America can choose to do the right thing by trying to educate our citizens on how we can actually make a better place for each other by making small sacrifices like going without a fire in the fireplace a few days of the year. Try the fireplace vid here on your HD TV (that you bought for cheap 'cause it was made in China where there are few environmental regulations). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsD1zoI7NYo, (you can even make it snow!) Please remember we live in a valley where air inversions trap particulate matter. Go to the beach and have a big bonfire! Thanks again for your understanding! Relax, have a glass of wine, take a deep breath and remember that by forgoing your fireplace for a few days a year you are helping hundreds of people that can't get that deep breath quite as easy as you can. You are helping them 'get a life' and we thank you for that! Happy New Year kind sir!
CORI December 30, 2011 at 05:01 PM
I FIND IT RATHER AMMUZING THAT WE ALL GREW UP NEVERR HAVING THIS NOR DID OUR GRANDPARENT EITHER .GEE I THINK ITS ALSO FUNNY THAT THESE DAYS ALWAYS POP UP WHEN ITS THE COLDEST DAYS OF THE YEAR AND YOU ABSOLUTLY NEED HEAT. AND WELL IF NO FIRE THEN YOU HAVE TO JACK UP YOUR HEATER .HMMMM MAKES ME ONLY WONDER ONE THING IS PG &E IN ON THIS ? JUST SAYING PEOPLE .
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) December 30, 2011 at 05:08 PM
Cori, Spare the Air alerts have been issued in California for 20 years. A lot of people have grown up during this period.
Thomas Paine January 01, 2012 at 07:16 AM
Nothing but hypocrisy! The District gave over 10,000 permits to petroleum/industrial polluters to keep on polluting in 2010 and only issued 6 Spare the Air alerts all winter. They collected almost $24 million from those permits. And they allocated 62% of revenue to "Personnel" according to their own report. This would be about $29 million. How many people are on their payoff? (oops, I meant payroll.) Don't you wonder why refineries and industrial polluters get permits while you get fined $400 for using your fireplace for heat? Misdirection for sure! Cui bono (who profits) from trying to make you think your fireplace is more toxic than 5 Bay Area refineries or millions of motor vehicles' emissions? And as to turning in your neighbor for wood smoke - did any of these good neighbors consider speaking with the burners to enlighten them about the evils of wood smoke? Or did they sneak off to make the anonymous complaints and thus avoid real human debate? Did they drive a vehicle that day? Did they remember or even consider the poor people living near Chernobyl or Fukushima or the Gulf Coast or Iraq when they cranked up their "clean" electric or gas heat supplied by the nuclear or oil producersf while ratting out their neighbor for lighting the Yule Log? Petty, petty, petty people And misinformed too. Ahctung! Everything not forbidden is compulsory!
William B Roberts January 01, 2012 at 08:05 AM
Come on now, I have asma and I will tell you that burning wood in my woodburning stove has no effect whats so ever on it. And I am 70 years young and I have been heating my home with wood all my life. Whats wrong with you people anyway, you just can't stand to see someone enjoying the freedom this country has.....Get a life.
William B Roberts January 01, 2012 at 08:40 AM
Another Liberal with his underwear too tight, To make an accusation that I am making the neighbors kids sick is absurd and is the same BS tactic that they use for the climate change scam. Of course some weenies will believe anything. Besides, there aren’t that many people using fireplaces or wood burning stoves anymore anyway, the liberals made it illegal to build a house with a fireplace years ago. So they haven’t taken enough of our freedoms away so the do gooder nazies are after the few of us left. This is why the left is so despised, its because of crap like this. Why don't you do gooders put your efforts into solving some real problems like why so many businesses are leaving this state and why the unemployment is so high........
William B Roberts January 01, 2012 at 09:07 AM
I am curious how long it will be before this ends up in a court to test the constitutionality of this. What board or panel of liberals passed this law. Know what? Sanfrancisco, you people are lost to socialism anyway, so we can just write you off, but there are a lot of free thinking people still left up here in the valley so knock your selves out with your stupidity, buy yourself an electric roller scate and get out in the 70 MPH traffic along side a big rig, but just leave the rest of us alone!
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) January 03, 2012 at 04:14 AM
Hi William, just FYI in response to your observations: ~San Francisco is only one of the nine counties in the air quality district; it's pretty far from Napa, where we are located. ~The air district was formed in 1955 as the Bay Area Air Pollution Control District because all nine counties share what's called a "regional air basin," with pollution crossing political boundaries. ~The regional Spare the Air alerts have been issued since 1991, but if your area is not part of the regional air basin then they are not relevant to you. ~You can become more informed by visiting sparetheair.org or baaqmd.gov, where I found the dates I cited in this comment.
Kate DePalma April 09, 2012 at 12:18 AM
Excuse me---trying to get people to burn less is a LIBERAL plot? I'm all for banning burning and I am not a "liberal"---- but I do have a science degree. SCIENCE has proven the dangers to health from wood burning. It causes damage to everyone's lungs over time--but to those with asthma etc. it can kill. WHen there were far less people crammed onto the planet--and living further apart--it was less of a problem. I'm all for individual rights and less government intrusion---so much so that I insist on my individual right to breathe my individual air without someone's smoke fouling it. I want other people's smoke off of my property and out of my lungs. All you people writing in here howling about your "right" to burn would surely be the first to howl about your property rights and anyone putting themselves onto your property or touching your body without permission. Well, your burning is touching me without my permission. What makes you think you own the air on someone else's property and can send your crap over there? If you want your right to burn, plug up your fireplace vent and let the smoke come down in your own house.
Kate Depalma April 09, 2012 at 12:20 AM
Excuse me---trying to get people to burn less is a LIBERAL plot? I'm all for banning burning and I am not a "liberal"---- but I do have a science degree. SCIENCE has proven the dangers to health from wood burning. It causes damage to everyone's lungs over time--but to those with asthma etc. it can kill. WHen there were far less people crammed onto the planet--and living further apart--it was less of a problem. I'm all for individual rights and less government intrusion---so much so that I insist on my individual right to breathe my individual air without someone's smoke fouling it. I want other people's smoke off of my property and out of my lungs. All you people writing in here howling about your "right" to burn would surely be the first to howl about your property rights and anyone putting themselves onto your property or touching your body without permission. Well, your burning is touching me without my permission. What makes you think you own the air on someone else's property and can send your crap over there? If you want your right to burn, plug up your fireplace vent and let the smoke come down in your own house.
bucket November 11, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Yikes Kate....Um, let's face it...Everyone does something that annoys another and effect 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 lifestock farms. 4) Spraying Pesticides. 5) Natural-Forest Fires and volcanic events, So while firing off (excuse the pun), please remember if you use your heater etc, drive a car, eat animal, eat fruits or vegetables; your use and consumption touches others without their permission. Same can be said about your car as you advised for others fireplace...plug the exhause pipe and let the exhaust fill your own car...not my air. Sorry...but again, we can't just pick out on problem and attack. Those in glass houses shouldn't throw rocks...

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