Monday, October 29, 2018

The Air District is announcing the start of the Winter Spare the Air season, Thursday, November 1.

Spare the Air Status

Just like wildfire smoke, wood smoke is harmful to breathe. Winter weather conditions trap smoke from household wood burning around homes and allow fine particle pollution to build up inside and outside residences.

The Air District calls Winter Spare the Air Alerts when air quality is forecast to be unhealthy due to fine particulate pollution, primarily from wood smoke. When an alert is in effect, it is illegal to burn wood, manufactured fire logs or any other solid fuel, both indoors and outdoors in the Bay Area for a full 24-hours during the Winter Spare the Air season from November 1 to February 28.

Starting November 1, landlords in areas with natural gas service are required to provide a form of heat other than a wood burning device to their tenants.

Cold temperatures and calm winds during the winter season cause smoke to build up throughout the Bay Area, causing unhealthy air quality in neighborhoods. The Air District calls a Winter Spare the Air Alert for the next full calendar day when weather conditions are forecast to trap pollution close to the ground and causing air to be unhealthy. Natural gas, propane or electric fireplaces do not cause unhealthy smoke in the air and can be used during Winter Spare the Air Alerts.

The Air District may call Winter Spare the Air Alerts up to three days in advance to prevent air pollution from building up and exceeding federal standards. During an alert, the use of wood burning devices such as fireplaces, pellet stoves, wood stoves and outdoor fire pits is illegal. In San Francisco, the National Park Service also prohibits recreational beach fires at Ocean Beach in Golden Gate National Recreation Area through the end of February.

Exposure to wood smoke has been linked to serious respiratory illnesses and even increased risk of heart attacks. Like cigarette smoke, wood smoke contains many carcinogenic substances, such as particulate matter and carbon monoxide, which make the air harmful to breathe. Smoke pollution from fireplaces builds up inside homes as well as in yards and neighborhoods. The fine particulate pollution in wood smoke is especially harmful for children, the elderly and those with respiratory conditions.

Bay Area residents can find out if a Winter Spare the Air Alert is in effect by:

  • Signing up for text alerts. To sign up, text the word “START” to the number 817-57
  • Calling 1-877-4NO-BURN
  • Visiting or
  • Signing up for automatic e-mail AirAlerts at
  • Signing up for automatic phone alerts by calling 1-800-430-1515
  • Downloading the Spare the Air iPhone or Android app

First-time violators of the Wood Burning Rule have the option to take a wood smoke awareness course to learn more about the health impacts from wood smoke and the weather conditions that lead to unhealthy air quality in the winter. Those violators who choose not to take the course will receive a $100 ticket. Second violations are subject to a $500 ticket, with the ticket amount increasing for any subsequent violations.

There are also year-round prohibitions on excessive smoke and burning garbage and other harmful materials like junk mail, plastic, wood pallets and more in fireplaces and woodstoves. Residents concerned about wood smoke pollution may call 1-877-4NO-BURN or visit to file a complaint or to get more information.

View press releaseLanguage Icon Globe.

View Winter Spare the Air web page.

Last Updated: 10/30/2018