Would You Report Your Neighbor for Burning Wood on a Spare the Air Day?

In two years, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District has collected $800 in fines for illegal residential wood burning.


Patch Staff

Last winter, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District received 3,777 citizen complaints about residential wood burning during the season’s 15 Spare the Air days. Those complaints resulted in a total of 346 warnings to wood burners in nine counties and 13 tickets carrying a $400 fine (See table below).

Aaron Richardson, a spokesman for the BAAQMD, said by email that the agency has only collected $800 in fines from the previous two winters, but that the chief point of banning wood fires on certain winter days is about improving air quality, not raising revenue. He added that early studies suggest that wood burning may be down by 15 percent from five years ago.

Here’s Richardson on how the BAAQMD enforces wood burning bans:

“We have about 70 inspectors on staff, and though not all of them are dispatched at any one time for wood burning duty, we send out patrols of various sizes on Winter Spare the Air days, depending on the day and availability.

“Inspectors must witness and document a violation to issue a citation.  We track all complaints received and use those to help plan neighborhoods to patrol.

“They look for smoke, and are trained in smoke plume recognition and opacity, and they must go to the physical location of the fire to determine and document the source before writing a citation.”

Warnings and Tickets Issued for Wood Burning on Winter Spare the Air Days Winter 2010-2011 (4 days of ban) Winter 2011-2012 (15 days of ban) County Warnings Tickets Warnings Tickets Alameda 5 0 10 0 Contra Costa 5 1 57 4 Marin 5 0 48 3 Napa 0 0 51 1 San Francisco 0 0 1 0 Santa Clara 13 1 32 2 San Mateo 2 0 31 1 Solano 0 0 8 0 Sonoma 29 0 108 2 Total 59 2 346 13

Source: BAAQMD

This season, first time offenders, who would have previously received a warning letter, will now be obliged to attend a class on the public health impacts of wood smoke. 

While Thursday is not a Spare the Air day, the BAAQMD is asking people to voluntarily forgo wood fires. 


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Judith Kenny January 03, 2013 at 08:52 PM
I have friends that do not have any heat but from their stove that burns the wood. I think they have every right to burn that wood to keep warm. Damn people that are calling because someone is trying to stay warm on these cold days and also not all seniors have internet access and have no way to know if it is silly no burn day. I hope their forced air gas furnance breaks down and they have no heat for a week and they have to burn on a no burn day and they get a 400 dollar ticket. Lets see how selfrighteous these rats are then. I love people who do these things. Call the cops if a car fender or bumper is touching the tip of the drive way while you are unloading groceries . Call the cops because your kid took off their helmets while riding bikes in the drive way and you were in the house. Now the busy bodies can win big points by ratting on people who forget and burn some wood on a day they are not allowed. Police state is what we live in and the little spies next door that suck up and turn their neighbors in for every little thing , everyone should just stop talking to them and ignore them. YOu go CA, you should offer rewards like another country did for squeeling on thier neighbors. 400 dollars trying to stay warm and not run up the PG&E bill. For what? More polution coming from Planes and buses and cars. Absolutely assinine.
Rob Klindt January 03, 2013 at 09:04 PM
Hi Judith. I'm sure a good many people would agree with you that people who need heat from burning wood should be able to do so. The good news is that there is an exemption available to residents and businesses that burn wood as their sole source of heat and have no other permanently installed heating source. Details are available on the Spare The Air website: http://sparetheair.org/Stay-Informed/Particulate-Matter/Wood-Smoke/Regulation.aspx


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