The Air District’s Wood-Burning Rule, Regulation 6, Rule 3, adopted by the Board of Directors in July 2008, applies to the entire Bay Area Air District, and sets baseline requirements regarding wood burning throughout the Bay Area. Prior to the adoption of Reg. 6-3, some cities and counties had adopted their own local wood smoke ordinances. Many of these were based on the Air District's 1990s Model Wood Smoke Ordinance, which was previously developed as a guidance document for cities and counties that wished to reduce wood smoke in their communities.
The 1990s model ordinance included a ban on wood burning in fireplaces when the Air District issued Winter Spare the Air Alerts, and encouraged the use of new, cleaner technologies to effectively reduce wood smoke pollution. Many of the provisions in the locally adopted ordinances have been superseded by Reg. 6-3 and are no longer applicable: for example, the voluntary no burn provision is no longer valid or legal. Here is an historical record of the ordinances and their provisions adopted by cities and counties as of April 2, 2012.
Since adoption of the Wood-Burning Rule, wood smoke pollution levels have decreased throughout the Bay Area. However, the topography of certain areas can trap wood smoke and result in localized pockets of pollution with negative impacts to neighborhood residents. To address these localized areas, the Air District has developed a new model ordinance that includes an extensive menu of options for reducing neighborhood wood smoke. This new model ordinance may be used by cities and counties to update existing ordinances or adopt new ordinances, depending on the needs of the community. Here is a quick reference guide to the ordinance.
Wood smoke contains fine particulate matter, or soot, that can easily bypass the natural filters in the nose and penetrate deep into the lungs. Scientific evidence indicates that exposure to fine particles can cause a wide range of health effects, including increased asthma-induced emergency room visits, respiratory and cardiovascular related hospital admissions, chronic bronchitis, non-fatal heart attacks and premature death. Reducing wood smoke is the most cost-effective reduction strategy for fine particulate matter and will likely result in the greatest improvement in air quality and public health.