Record streak continues for Winter Spare the Air Alerts

The San Francisco Bay Area is experiencing a record streak of 5 days of Winter Spare the Air Alerts issued.
December 12, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Earlier on Wednesday night you could see the haze sitting over the East Bay.

This time of year it's common to see firewood for sale outside if stores. Right now in the Bay Area you can buy it, but you can't burn it because we're on our fifth Spare the Air night in a row. This is a first for the Bay Area and we could have another Spare the Air Alert issued for Thursday.

"We've only had four in a row before, and now that's fairly common, but this is not and so six would be unprecedented," said Kristine Roselius from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

Roselius points out the haze we see in the sky as our air quality worsens on Winter Spare the Air nights. The alert means the air quality for the following day is expected to be unhealthy so precautions have to be taken.

"No wood burning is allowed and that includes your fireplace, outdoor fire pit, chiminea and also manufactured fire logs," said Roselius.

It will take some unsettled weather, like rain...to clear the air.

"I woke up choking twice this morning and the first thing I did when I got out of bed was grab my inhaler," said San Anselmo resident Jules Gitelman. Gitelman has asthma and really suffers when the air quality is poor, especially since there are people who continue to burn even though it's illegal. "You can smell it and I can feel it in my chest."

There are spare the air exemptions available for anyone who is using a wood burning stove as their sole source of heat because they have no other permanently installed heating system in their home. Restaurants like Carmel Wood Fired Pizza near Fisherman's Wharf are also exempt.

"If you're going to make true pizza, you need a wood fired oven," said Owner Amanda Orloff.

Orloff says when the pizza place first opened, customers used to ask how she got around Spare the Air days. For her it's perfectly legal. Even so, she prefers to use almond wood. She told us, "It is a cleaner burning wood than oak which is really commonly used in most wood fired-burning pizza ovens. It has less ash also in the end, so it's just a cleaner product overall."

For the rest of us, check before you burn because you can be ticketed and fined.


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