Pollution sparks wintertime ban 

Snuggling by a fireplace or fire pit will be banned on winter nights under a new rule approved Wednesday.

The 1.2 million Bay Area wood-burning devices, which include fireplaces and wood-burning stoves, create one-third of wintertime particulate air pollution, according to a report by Jack Broadbent, executive officer of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Banning wood-burning on Spare the Air nights could prevent more than 700 tons of soot from being released into the air, according to the report.

The disrtict rule also bans the sale of moist wood for burning, and it bans the sale of wood-burning devices that don’t meet emissions guidelines.

Spare the Air nights typically are declared between six and 12 times per winter, but that figure has risen in the past almost into the 20s, air district spokeswoman Lisa Fasano said.

"On nights when the air is very stagnant and it’s not moving around, the particulate levels from smoke caused by wood-burning just hang heavy in the air," Fasano said. "That can make it particularly difficult for people who have respiratory conditions — such as asthma and things like that — to breathe."

People who flout the rule and burn wood on Spare the Air nights between November and February under the new rule could be slapped with a $1,000 fine.

The crackdown is not limited to the Bay Area — San Joaquin Valley and Sacramento have similar bans. Fremont, Gilroy, Los Gatos, Martinez, Mill Valley, Oakland, Rohnert Park, San Pablo and Union City all have banned measured use of wood-burning devices.

jupton@sfexaminer.com

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