The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is asking residents to check before burning any wood fires this week, as roasting chestnuts over an open fire may not be an option this Christmas.
The district issued a reminder on Tuesday asking residents to sign up for air quality alerts, or check to see if a Spare the Air alert has been issued, before using their fireplaces or wood stoves.
Weather forecasts for the end of this week, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, predict light winds and cool dry air that stays near the ground. According to the BAAQMD, these conditions trap smoke, causing unhealthy breathing conditions across the region.
The district has already issued two winter Spare the Air alerts, its first one falling on Thanksgiving Day. On these days, Bay Area residents are prohibited from burning wood or manufactured fire logs in fireplaces, wood stoves, fire pits or in any other capacity. The ban extends to both indoor and outdoor fires.
The wood-burning rule went into effect last winter, and about 15 to 20 alerts are expected to be issued this season. First-time violators will receive a warning, but repeat offenses will lead to increasingly bigger tickets, starting at $400.
According to the BAAQMD, there are about 1.4 million fireplaces and wood stoves in the Bay Area, and smoke is the region's largest source of wintertime air pollution.
The district posts the next day's air quality forecast by 1:30 p.m. daily. Sign up for alerts at www.sparetheair.org or by phone at (800) 430-1515.