fire.jpgA blazing fire in a fireplace or wood stove may sound like the perfect antidote to the cold air hovering over the Bay Area this week, but air quality officials are asking residents to voluntarily refrain from wood burning to prevent the need for a Friday air alert.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District announced Wednesday that there would be no Winter Spare the Air Alert issued for today, however, the agency could possibly issue one for Friday.

The air district is the regional agency chartered with protecting air quality in the nine-county Bay Area.

The weather forecast for Friday indicates that the Bay Area may see conditions that trap smoke near the ground, which could result in unhealthy breathing conditions for all Bay Area residents.

If unhealthy air quality is forecast for Friday, the alert would be issued by 2 p.m. today, and would ban burning for a full 24 hours on Friday, the district said.

“If people voluntarily refrain from wood burning on Thanksgiving, it will not only reduce dangerous soot, but may help avoid having to call a Winter Spare the Air Alert on Friday,” air district executive officer Jack Broadbent said in a statement Wednesday.

Wood smoke is the largest source of wintertime air pollution in the Bay Area, according to the air district. It contains harmful pollutants, such as soot and carbon monoxide, and toxins such as dioxin, which has been linked to increased cancer rates in adults.

About one-third of the harmful soot in the winter air can be attributed to wood smoke from the 1.4 million fireplaces and wood stoves in the Bay Area, according to the district.
The pollutants can cause breathing difficulties, especially in children, seniors, and those with heart of lung conditions.

“Cleaner air will help us all enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday weekend,” Broadbent said.
Residents must check the daily burn status–which can be found online at–before burning wood during the Winter Spare the Air season, which began Nov. 1 and runs through Feb. 28.

Patricia Decker, Bay City News

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