Asking People to Voluntarily Refrain from Wood Burning
The Bay Air Quality Management District has asked people in the 9 county areas around the San Francisco Bay to voluntarily refrain from burning fires in the next few days in order to avoid unhealthful conditions that would trigger a Spare the Air alert.
The Air District’s call for voluntary restraint builds upon the successful strategy used last year, when they asked people not to burn on the days leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas when weather conditions would have trapped wood smoke close to the ground. People responded to the requests, and the region’s air quality did not exceed the national air quality health standards on those holidays, unlike many years in the past.
By expanding the call for voluntary restraint beyond holidays to any day when weather conditions are ripe for wood smoke to linger, the Air District can further protect public health. This is a carrot and stick approach: If people voluntarily refrain from burning during stagnant weather conditions, they are rewarded with cleaner air to breathe, fewer trips to the emergency room due to asthma or heart attacks, and their neighbors’ appreciation. If people don’t reduce their burning, then a Spare the Air alert is triggered, imposing a mandatory ban on wood burning and minimum $400 fines for those who don’t comply.
The consequences of wood smoke pollution are borne by everyone, not just those who fail to heed mandatory curtailments. However, we at Families for Clean Air applaud the District’s success so far in heading off Spare the Air alerts with requests for voluntary restraint. This is an encouraging and positive step toward protecting public health.