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Safe for Santa! No Fires in the Fireplace on Christmas Eve

A Winter Spare the Air Day has been called for Dec. 24

Bay City News Service--Santa Claus better not see any fires when he comes down the chimney on Christmas Eve. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has issued a Spare the Air alert for Saturday, banning the burning of wood, manufactured fire logs or any other solid fuel, both indoors and outdoors.

The alert, the ninth in the region since the winter season started on Nov. 1, was issued because of anticipated cold and still weather conditions that will trap air pollution close to the ground.

The 24-hour ban prevents the use of fireplaces, woodstoves, outdoor fire pits or any other wood-burning devices. Homes without permanently installed heating are exempt from the ban.

"We want everyone to be able to enjoy this holiday season at home with loved ones rather than spending it in the emergency room with a relative having difficulty breathing," Jack Broadbent, executive officer of the air district, said in a statement.

During the winter months, wood smoke is the leading cause of air pollution in the Bay Area, according to district officials. Wood smoke contains harmful pollutants such as soot and carbon monoxide and toxins such as dioxin, which has been linked to increased cancer rates in adults.

More information about the ban can be found at www.sparetheair.org or by calling 877-4NO-BURN.

Those wishing to receive automatic phone calls when a Winter Spare the Air alert is issued can register by calling 800-430-1515.

Copyright © 2011 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.

Marga Lacabe December 26, 2011 at 04:53 PM
I really, really, really wanted to have a fire on Christmas Eve. That's when we host our celebratory dinner. The kids LOVE fires but we don't have more than two or three a year, so the one on Xmas Eve is pretty special. I'll tell you the truth, I so wanted the fire that I almost told my husband to do it anyway, despite the warning. After all, as long as everyone else obeys the warning, who cares if /we/ do? Ah, the tragedy of the commons in effect - and it's tragedy of the commons that make regulation necessary on environmental issues. Matt, the evidence that breathing smoke harms people is overwhelming. Really, do a simple search online and you'll find lots of studies on the effect of air pollution, and fire place smoke in particular, on health. It affects all sorts of things from athma, to lung and heart disease, to cancer. Really, breathing tiny pieces of wood is just not going to be good for your body. Now, I'm really glad that the air in the Bay Area is not so bad that wood-burning fireplaces have to be banned altogether - we have to thank the wind for that. BUT, in those nights that are so still that there is not much air movement, when any smoke that we generate will stay in place for hours, it does make sense to minimize that smoke and not have needless wood fires - even if it's on Xmas Eve.
David Ross December 26, 2011 at 05:05 PM
So, Marga, are you telling me that because the weather in one area of the Bay Area is windless that ALL areas of the Bay Area - which extends from well north of Castro Valley to well south of Castro Valley - is going to be windless? But that's the way the UNELECTED bureaucrats of the AQD treat the area. In other words, these UNELECTED fools have made a one-size-fits-all method of "controlling" air pollution. I've driven (yes, I know driving is bad for everyone; I should have taken BART) from Castro Valley to Oakland. Castro Valley was in the high 70's, cloudless, and no wind. Oakland was in the high 60's, overcast sky, and breezy. Yet the AQD imposed a "spare the air" day for ALL of the Bay Area just because part of the area was supposedly bad. And just who the h e double hockey sticks are you or anybody else to say a wood fire is needless? A fire doesn't have to be set in the fireplace for warmth only. Why should it be called needless if the fire isn't for warmth but to create a romantic setting for me and my loved one? I wonder how many thousands of dollars were wasted yesterday for these inspectors to travel the Bay Area looking for criminals whose only crime was to use their fireplace? It wouldn't surprise me one bit if they spent X dollars and brought in fines of 1/4X. In other words, they spend $4 to collect $1.
Marga Lacabe December 26, 2011 at 05:33 PM
David, actually a large part of the problem is exactly that: that one part of the Bay Area can be windless while others are not. Winds in the Bay Area usually flow from the ocean to the valleys in the East and South Bays, so if the air the valleys is particularly still, the pollutants coming from the west will drift there but won't leave. So, if you live in Castro Valley, you should be happy that in days with bad air quality those of us west of you are not allowed to burn fires either, even if our air is good. Otherwise we'd enjoy the fire, and you'd get to breathe our smoke. And now, a little romantic advise, if your relationship is in such a need of a fire to create a romantic atmosphere, and if your anger about not being able to have one is so strong that overshadows your feelings of romance, your romantic problems will *not* be solved by a fire. Trust me.
David Ross December 26, 2011 at 05:46 PM
No, I don't need a fire to create a romantic atmosphere but it is nice to have that option when I want to do it. When I lived in a place with a fireplace, (this was before the government started telling me how much of an evil person I was for having a fire in a fireplace), it was great to get some wine, maybe something to snack on, start a fire in the fireplace, and cuddle up with my loved one on the couch to watch the fire, enjoy the wine and snacks, and, most of all, enjoy being close to each other. Yea, I could put a DVD on that shows a fireplace but it just ain't the same. Now, even if I did have fireplace, I can't be spontaneous and cuddle up with my loved on the couch watching the fire as we sip wine because some idiot from the government will fine me if I start the fire. And the fine is way out of proportion to the so-called crime.
Michael Austin December 26, 2011 at 06:56 PM
Some of us have spent time and spent money to install state of the art EPA certified wood burning insert. The EPA standard for particulat emission is 7.5 grams an hour. My EPA certified insert emits 1.26 grams an hour. I can invest in additional technology by purchasing a catalytic after burner to reduce the 1.26 grams to zero. But there is no incentive for me to do so. The BAAQMD disallows wood burning on Spare the air days (STA days). No matter how clean I burn, or could burn.

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