Air District Operations

The Air District is taking steps to ensure Bay Area air quality and public health are protected while the shelter-in-place orders are in effect. Permits for businesses adjusting operations to aid in the public health response will also be expedited. Read more... | en Español

Spare the Air Program FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions - Spare the Air Program

What is the Spare the Air program?

The Air District established the Spare the Air program in 1991 to reduce air pollution and provide advance notice when air quality is forecast to be unhealthy. 

The Spare the Air program is focused on educating the public and promoting changes in behavior that will help prevent unhealthy air quality. The program also alerts residents on days when it is illegal to use their fireplaces or wood stoves because of high levels of fine particulate pollution.

The Spare the Air Employer Program provides more than 2,100 businesses with free tools to educate employees about pollution prevention and advises them when a Spare the Air Alert is issued.

Community Resource Teams provide an opportunity for local residents to work together and plan educational activities and programs that reduce air pollution in their communities.

What is a Spare the Air Alert?

A Spare the Air Alert is called when air quality is forecast to be unhealthy in the Bay Area.

During warmer months, when a Spare the Air Alert is called for ozone pollution, Bay Area residents are asked to reduce their driving to help minimize pollution, and people who are sensitive to unhealthy air are advised to limit their time outdoors, particularly in the afternoon hours.

When a Spare the Air Alert is called due to an unhealthy build up of fine particulate matter pollution, the use of wood-burning devices is prohibited indoors and outdoors.

When do Spare the Air Alerts usually occur?

On long, hot days - generally between April and October - pollutants emitted primarily from vehicle exhaust combine in the presence of sunlight to form ozone, which is the main constituent of smog. The Air District issues Spare the Air Alerts on days when ozone is forecast to be unhealthy and urges residents to drive less and curtail other polluting activities. Residents who are sensitive to unhealthy air are advised to limit their time outdoors, especially in the afternoon when temperatures are highest and ozone levels rise.

During colder months, concentrations of fine particulate matter pollution can rise to unhealthy levels in the Bay Area. On cold, still days, temperature inversions trap residential wood smoke close to the ground to create unhealthy air quality. On these days, the Air District issues a Spare the Air Alert for fine particulate pollution, prohibiting the use of all wood-burning devices both indoors and outdoors throughout the Bay Area. On these days, residents are also advised to limit their time outdoors, especially those sensitive to unhealthy air.

Beginning in 2020, the wood burning ban has been extended to include any days year-round when a Spare the Air Alert is in effect due to high levels of fine particulate pollution, such as during a wildfire.

How will I know when a Spare the Air Alert has been called?

There are many ways to be informed about Spare the Air Alerts.

Spare the Air Alerts are shown prominently on the www.baaqmd.gov and www.sparetheair.org websites, as well as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

You can call 1-800-HELP AIR year-round to find out if a Spare the Air Alert is in effect, and 1‑877-4NO-BURN to find out if there is a Spare the Air wood-burning ban in place.

You can sign up for Spare the Air text alerts, by texting the word “START” to 817-57.

You can sign up for AirAlerts, an email service that informs the public the day before a Spare the Air Alert is called.

You can sign up to receive an automated phone call when Spare the Air Alerts for particulate matter pollution are issued, making wood burning illegal. 

You can download the Spare the Air iPhone or android apps, which notify users when a Spare the Air Alert is in effect.

Many television and radio stations announce Spare the Air Alerts. And several Bay Area newspapers carry the air quality forecast, usually on the weather page of the papers.

Spare the Air Status
No Wood Burning
Spare the Air Status
  • Tuesday,
    10/27

    No Spare the Air Alert in Effect

Last Updated: 7/15/2015