Wood Smoke Pollution

Learn how the Air District is reducing wood smoke pollution in the Bay Area through Winter Spare the Air Alerts and restrictions on wood burning, and find out how you can help at home.

During the winter, smoke from residential wood burning is the leading cause of air pollution in the Bay Area. Small particles and toxic chemicals from wood smoke can cause serious health problems, especially in children, older adults, and those with heart or respiratory problems. To learn how wood smoke pollution can affect your health, visit the U.S. EPA’s Burn Wise Health Effects webpage.

Winter Spare the Air Alerts

When air quality is unhealthy, the Air District issues a Winter Spare the Air Alert (PDF) and bans wood burning. To find out whether a Winter Spare the Air Alert is in effect:

  • Check the Winter Spare the Air status box on the right side of this page.
  • Visit the Spare the Air website
  • Download the Spare the Air app for iPhone or Android and check the status on your smartphone
  • Sign up for Air Alert notifications by phone or email
  • Connect with Spare the Air on social media
  • Call 1.800.HELP.AIR

Wood-Burning Devices Rule

Adopted by the Board of Directors in July 2008, the Wood-Burning Devices Rule (PDF):

  • Makes it illegal to use any wood-burning devices (such as fireplaces, woodstoves, or pellet stoves) when a Spare the Air Alert is in effect.
  • Limits excessive smoke when burning is allowed.
  • Bans burning of garbage, plastics, and other toxic materials.
  • Requires labeling on firewood and other solid fuels sold in the Bay Area.
  • Requires that only clean-burning, EPA-certified stoves and inserts are sold and used in local construction projects.

More information is available in the Wood-Burning Devices Rule Frequently Asked Questions (PDF).

2015 Rule Amendments

On October 21, 2015, the Air District's Board of Directors unanimously adopted new provisions that significantly improve the agency's wood-burning regulation, which is designed to safeguard public health against the hazards of fine particle pollution. These amendments tighten exemptions and requirements from the original rule, which was adopted in July 2008.

2016 Requirements

Effective June 1, 2016 - Residential Fireplace Disclosure

The Wood Smoke rule requires anyone, selling, renting, or leasing a property in the Bay Area to disclose the potential health impacts from air pollution caused by burning wood.

Effective November 1, 2016 - Regulation 6, Rule 3, Section 110.1 requires anyone whose sole source of heat is a wood-burning device to utilize an EPA-certified or pellet-fueled device that is registered with the Air District for an exemption from the burn ban. An open hearth fireplace will no longer qualify for an exemption.

You must register your EPA-certified or pellet-fueled device with the Air District to be exempt from the burn ban alerts by November 1, 2016 or you are no longer exempt and subject to penalty for a violation.

Also, the Air District is conducting a rebate program for upgrading wood stoves and fireplaces to compliant devices.

Effective November 1, 2016 - Bay Area residents who begin a chimney or fireplace remodeling project that costs over $15,000 and requires a building permit will only be allowed to install a gas-fueled, electric or EPA-certified device.

Effective November 1, 2016 - No wood-burning devices of any kind may be installed in new homes or buildings being constructed in the Bay Area. 

Wood-Burning Devices Rule Exemptions

(10/21/15 Update: Information Pending Revision)

There are some exemptions to the Wood-Burning Devices Rule, allowing people in a few instances to burn wood during a Winter Spare the Air Alert:

As noted above, effective November 1, 2016, recent wood-burning rule amendments require anyone whose sole source of heat is a wood-burning device to utilize an EPA-certified or pellet-fueled device that is registered with the Air District for an exemption from the burn ban. An open hearth fireplace will no longer qualify for an exemption.

Model Wood Smoke Ordinance

Since the Wood-Burning Devices Rule has been adopted, wood smoke pollution levels have decreased throughout the Bay Area. However, the terrain of certain areas can trap smoke, creating pockets of pollution that negatively impact public health. To address these areas, the Air District developed the Model Wood Smoke Ordinance (PDF), which includes several options for reducing localized wood smoke. This model ordinance can be used by cities and counties to adopt or update ordinances, depending on the needs of the community. View the Quick Reference Guide (PDF) for more information.

How Residents Can Reduce Wood Smoke Pollution

The Air District encourages residents to use cleaner, more efficient heating devices, such as natural gas or electric heating, to heat their homes. If you do burn wood on days when it is allowed, reduce pollution by following these guidelines:

  • Switch to an EPA-certified wood-burning or gas device.
  • Burn clean, hot fires with plenty of air.
  • Never burn painted or treated wood, particle board, plastics, wrapping paper, or other garbage.
  • Burn dry hardwood such as oak or cherry, which produce less smoke.
  • Store wood in a dry, covered area.
  • Keep your fireplace and woodstove clean and well maintained.
  • Be sure your house is well insulated.
  • Dress warmly to reduce the need for additional heating.

Get more tips from the U.S. EPA’s Burn Wise Program (PDF), available in English and Spanish.

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415 749-4795

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415 749 4999

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415 749-4786

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Last Updated: 8/19/2014