Dozens of no-burn violations on Christmas

December 28, 2009 5:13:20 PM PST
Nowhere in the Bay Area should chestnuts have been roasting on an open fire on Christmas due to a Spare the Air alert issued for that day, but some residents still lit logs in their fireplaces, an air district spokesman said today.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District recorded 47 potential violations of the regional no-burn restriction, air district spokesman Ralph Borrmann said.

The district had declared a Spare the Air Day for the holiday, meaning residents were not allowed to burn wood, manufactured fire logs or any other solid fuel. A Spare the Air is issued when there is an unhealthy amount of particulate matter forecast for the region.

For the Christmas Spare the Air Day, the air district received 216 calls ranging from complaints to compliments, Borrmann said. Twelve air district inspectors worked on Christmas, patrolling the region and watching for smoke.

A violation does not automatically mean a resident will get a citation, Borrmann said. He said violations are entered into the air district's database, and that a citation is issued only if a resident has racked up more than one.

A citation carries a $400 fine paid to the air district.

Despite the 47 potential violations, the air quality didn't exceed the federal health standard, Borrmann said.

"It seems like people heard the message," he said.

Homes without permanent heating, where woodstoves or fireplaces are the only source of heat, are exempt from the ban, and fires used for cooking are also allowed.

The winter Spare the Air season runs from Nov. 1 through Feb. 28. The first Spare the Air alert this season was issued on Thanksgiving, and the second was declared Dec. 9. Christmas was the third.

The daily air quality forecast is available at www.baaqmd.gov or www.sparetheair.org. To sign up for alerts, visit www.sparetheair.org or sign up for phone alerts at (800) 430-1515.


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