With the Winter Spare the Air season now underway, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District is reminding residents in the region about new requirements that have been added to the district's wood-burning rules.
During the Winter Spare the Air season, which ends on Feb. 28, residents are prohibited from burning wood, manufactured fire logs and any other solid fuel both indoors and outdoors when a Spare the Air Alert has been issued, according to the air district.
Last year, the air district adopted a series of more stringent amendments to the wood-burning rule, which was originally passed in 2008.
According to the new requirements, anyone whose sole source of heat is a wood-burning device must use a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-certified or pellet-fueled device that is registered with the air district to qualify for an exemption.
Also, residents who begin a chimney or fireplace remodeling project that costs more than $15,000 and requires a building permit will only be allowed to install a gas-fueled, electric or EPA-certified device, according to air district officials.
In addition, no wood-burning devices of any kind may be installed in new homes or buildings being constructed in the Bay Area, air district officials said.
"Wood smoke from the Bay Area's 1.4 million fireplaces and wood stoves continues to be the largest source of wintertime air pollution in the region," air district executive officer Jack Broadbent said in a statement.
"The Air District's more stringent amendments to our wood-burning rule serve to further protect public health from wood smoke pollution."
The air district will typically issue a Winter Spare the Air Alert for the next day when weather conditions trap pollution close to the ground and air quality is forecast to be unhealthy.
Air district officials can also issue an alert for up to three days in advance to keep pollution from building up and exceeding federal standards.
If an alert is issued, first-time violators of the wood-burning rule will be given the option of taking a wood smoke awareness course or paying a $100 fine. Second violations would be subject to a $500 fine, with the fines increasing for any violations after that.
Exposure to wood smoke has been linked to respiratory illnesses as well as increased risk of heart attacks and can be especially harmful to children, the elderly and people already suffering from a respiratory condition, air district officials said.
To find out when a Winter Spare the Air Alert has been issued, residents can call (877) 466-2876, visit www.sparetheair.org or www.baaqmd.org, sign up for automatic e-mail alerts or download a Spare the Air smartphone app.