Calls to issue Winter Spare the Air Day alerts ended last week as the season wrapped up on Feb. 28, Bay Area Air Quality Management District officials said.

There were 10 alerts issued throughout the season, which ran from November through the end of February, air district spokesman Ralph Borrmann said.

This is the fifth season the district has run a winter wood-burning ban program.

Although the season began at the end of 2012, all but one of the alerts were issued in January, with the last in early February.

When a Winter Spare the Air Day is in effect, residents are not allowed to use fireplaces, woodstoves, fire pits or other wood-burning devices. Residents who depend on those devices as a heat source are exempt from restrictions, according to the air district.

The alerts are issued on days when air quality is deemed unhealthy with wood smoke and particle pollution in the air.

Borrmann said despite the 10 alerts, the region saw fewer days of excessive levels of particulates in the air, with only one day violating federal wintertime air quality health standards.

The previous winter season had 10 high particulate days, while more than a decade ago, the 2000-2001 season saw 39 days that exceeded federal thresholds, according to the air district.

Throughout the season, 178 residents were found violating the burning restrictions, with the highest percentage of violators coming from Sonoma County.

There were 45 violations recorded in that county.

For the first time, the air district gave first-time violators the option to take a wood smoke awareness class.

Borrmann said the course “seems to be working well…It gives some flexibility to our residents in terms of complying with air regularity.”

By the end of February, 50 residents had taken and passed the course. More will enroll in the class for tickets issued later in the season, district officials said.

A $500 fine is levied for a second offense.

Borrmann noted that there were a “fair amount of complaints” to the air district from residents reporting suspected burn-ban violators.

Throughout the season, 2,316 complaints were issued.

Sasha Lekach, Bay City News

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