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

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

Last winter, the Bay Area Air Quality Management 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. 

While Thursday is not a Spare the Air day, the BAAQMD is asking people to voluntarily forgo wood fires. 

Would you report your neighbor? Why or why not? Tell us in the comments section below.

LL January 25, 2013 at 01:46 AM
P, heck I take back the big jerk. I'm assuming too much here. Read all your words, and I have to say you do have a point. I still wish you could put your brain power into more productive discoveries, like curing the ills of our leaders. Maybe something simple like getting the truck traffic to stop on 580. Let's move all the shipping down to San Diego or Long Beach; now that all the wealthy people are moving out of Calif it might slip by without notice. We need a solution for Calif, only problem would be no one would follow up on it once we got one no matter how good it might be. Peace.
Tom January 25, 2013 at 02:55 AM
Thanks for the encouragement, LL. I laugh at the name-calling, simple-minded, hair-on-fire types posting here. They probably all watch Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, and are brain-washed into a misguided mode of critical thinking. What a pity.
LL January 27, 2013 at 04:24 AM
Awe, maybe I'm one. But I deny the brain washing and simple-mindedness. We gotta keep a laugh in our hearts and have a strong conviction to follow, then life will move along the right way. Thumbs up Tom.
Tom January 28, 2013 at 01:09 AM
LL January 28, 2013 at 01:29 AM
Tom, Not to worry, I don't have a radio. And not fond of TV. I read my news and seek out news options for my news intake.


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