Christmas comes with season’s 18th wood-burning alert

This Christmas, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District is again requesting that residents give the gift of clean air and refrain from burning wood, manufactured logs and other solid fuel for 24 hours.

The 18th winter Spare the Air Alert is the most the district has called in a season since 2008, when it went from requesting a voluntary no-burn program to an outright ban that can result in $100, $500 and higher tickets for violators.

“We don't want people to spend their holiday in the emergency room; we want them to enjoy the holiday with their family,” district spokeswoman Lisa Fasano said. “But air-quality conditions are such that we need everyone to do their part and not contribute to the pollution that we've got in the air.”

Historically, Christmas Day in the region has had very high particulate matter readings because of excessive wood burning, she said.

While rainy weather last Christmas prevented the region from exceeding the federal health standard, the district issued the alert for today because, “It's pretty likely that we will exceed,” Fasano said.

The district called the alert on the holiday in 2011 when nearly all of its regions exceeded the standard. When the alert was also called on Christmas 2009, the region came just under federal standards, which is 35 micrograms per cubic meter.

Winters past have seen air move into the Bay Area and move out pollution, but so far this year it has been largely stagnant, sometimes causing “muddy” air, Fasano said.

“If you look at the skyline and the horizon,” she said, “you can see just how dirty the air is right now.”

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