A Ban on Fires During Spare the Air Days?

Officials with the (San Francisco) Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) have recently been considering imposing a ban on burning wood in fireplaces during ‘Spare the Air’ days.

‘Spare the Air’ days are days when officials detect an unhealthy level of particulate matter in the air. These days tend to be the hottest days of the year. On ‘Spare the Air’ days, San Francisco Bay Area governments ask residents to take voluntary steps to help improve the air quality. Local transit systems including BART, the Golden Gate Ferry, and MUNI have traditionally provided free public transit rides during a limited number of these days to encourage commuters to leave their cars at home and commute using public transit.

The proposed rule would ban burning wood in both indoor and outdoor fireplaces and firepits, but it would allow burning using gas-fueled fireplaces and logs, gas inserts and electrical fireplaces.

What’s the “Green building” connection, you ask? Many cities and counties around the Bay Area have already begun imposing bans on construction of new wood-burning fireplaces, and this appears to be the latest movement toward reducing the harmful impact of wood burning upon climate change and public health.

Approximately 40 cities and counties around the Bay Area have adopted regulations regarding wood burning, primarily prohibiting the construction of fireplaces in new homes. Cities that have already banned burning wood in fireplaces on bad-air days include:

  • Fremont
  • Gilroy
  • Los Altos Hills
  • Los Gatos
  • Martinez
  • Mill Valley
  • Oakland
  • Rohnert Park
  • San Pablo
  • Union City

Those who favor the ban point out that wood burning causes increased CO2 emissions which contribute to global warming. What’s more, wood smoke includes several toxic, cancer-causing compounds and can be aggravate lung conditions, causing asthma attacks.

For those who absolutely can’t bear the thought of missing out on sitting by a crackling fire, alternative biomass and pellet-burning fireplaces are available.

You can read the BAAQMD’s proposal to ban wood burning here.