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Air Quality Fact

When the weather is warm and stagnant, high concentrations of ozone can form. Ground level ozone irritates the lungs and is unhealthy to breathe, especially for people with repiratory problems, children, the elderly, and anyone who exercises outdoors.

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Wood Burning and Wood Smoke Complaints

The San Francisco Bay Area is home to almost seven million residents and an estimated 1.4 million fireplaces and wood stoves. Smoke and soot from these devices can be a significant air pollution and public health problem during the winter.

Wood smoke complaints include those about:

  • Burning either indoors or outdoors during a Winter Spare the Air Alert.
  • Excessive smoke from a chimney.
  • Burning of trash or plastics, or other potentially illegal wood burning activity.

To file a complaint about any of these kinds of pollution, use our Online Wood Smoke Complaint Form or call 1-877-4NO-BURN (1-877-466-2876). To bypass the introductory phone message and go directly to complaint reporting, press 1 and then 1.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has translation services to accommodate non-English languages spoken in the Bay Area. Non-English speakers wishing to file a wood smoke complaint should call 1-800-334-6367.

Tips on Making a Complaint

If possible, give the correct address of the alleged source so we can mail information materials and help prevent repeat occurrences.

Let us know the time of day that the wood smoke typically occurs, whether it is intermittent or constant over longer periods of time, and how long you have been experiencing the problem.

Filing one complaint about an address enters it in our complaint system. You do not need to file multiple complaints about the same address.

How Complaints Are Investigated

When we receive a complaint, we place the address in our wood smoke complaint system. At a minimum, we mail information about wood smoke regulations to every alleged violator.

Air District inspectors routinely conduct wood smoke investigations throughout the Bay Area, generally where there are high numbers of complaints recorded or high rates of wood burning.  Due to the sensitive nature of wood smoke complaints, inspectors do not meet directly with complainants.

An Air District Notice of Violation (NOV) for a residence or business that violates the wood smoke regulation can be issued only if an Air District inspector personally observes and documents the violation.  First time violators will be issued an NOV but will have an opportunity to take the Air District’s Wood Smoke Awareness School in lieu of paying a fine.  Those who are found in violation a second time are issued a NOV citation and are subject to a $500 fine.  Repeat violators who subsequently continue to burn in violation of the regulation will face increasing financial penalties.

About Wood Smoke Regulations

The Air District’s Wood Smoke Regulation prohibits burning wood or solid fuels such as manufactured logs and pellets when air quality is forecast to be unhealthy. It also restricts excessive visible smoke, and prohibits burning of garbage, plastics and other unsuitable materials.

Between November 1st and the end of February, the Air District issues Winter Spare the Air Alerts when particulate pollution is expected to rise to unhealthy levels. On these days, it is illegal to burn wood and other solid fuels in fireplaces, woodstoves, or in any outside fire. (Fires for cooking food are allowed.)

For More Information

For more information on health risks, pollution, and clean-up strategies related to wood burning, see:

Reducing Wood Smoke: A Burning Issue

Basic facts on wood smoke from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

Burn Wise

Wood burning information from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Wood Smoke FAQ

Answers to common questions about wood smoke and burning from the Air District, August 2011.

Wood Smoke – Spare the Air

Wood burning information including flyers and fact sheets in English, Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese from the Air District’s Spare the Air program.

Exemption Guidance for the Wood Smoke Rule

Information on who is exempt from Air District restrictions on wood burning.

Last Updated: 10/25/2013