Winter Spare the Air Day Alerts - Air Quality

What is Winter Spare the Air?

Winter Spare the Air is a pollution reduction program sponsored by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD). On winter days, particulate matter can be a problem in the Bay Area. To protect public health, residents are asked to refrain from activities that cause pollution on these days.  In addition, a new BAAQMD regulation was passed in July that makes burning wood, fire logs, or pellets illegal when a Winter Spare the Air Alert is in effect.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

According to the new BAAQMD regulation, it is illegal to operate any wood-burning devices on Winter Spare the Air Days. The definition of wood-burning devices includes:

  • wood-burning stoves or heaters
  • pellet-fueled devices
  • space heating or aesthetic indoor wood-burning elements

The definition of wood-burning devices does NOT include those intended exclusively for cooking food, such as wood-fired ovens or barbeques.

How long does the Winter Spare the Air season last?

The Winter Spare the Air season runs from November to February.

Are there any exemptions to the wood-burning devices curtailment during Winter Spare the Air Alerts?

Yes. If electrical power OR natural gas service is not available in your area, you may qualify for an exemption. You may also qualify for an exemption if operating a wood-burning device is your only source of heat. Please see the BAAQMD regulation for a complete description of exemptions:

Why is the operation of wood-burning devices prohibited during Winter Spare the Air Alerts?

Wood burning produces about one-third of the particulate pollution on a typical winter night. There is an estimated 1.4 million fireplaces and woodstoves in the Bay Area; wood smoke air pollution from these appliances has been a health concern for many years, especially on winter evenings.

Why are particulates a health concern?

Particulate matter is a mixture of solid and liquid particles in the air.  The smaller-sized particles are of greatest health concern because they can pass through the nose and throat, lodging deep in the lungs. There have been many correlations between rising PB levels with serious health effects, such as asthma symptoms and decreased lung function.

What other things can I do to reduce wood smoke pollution?

The BAAQMD gives 10 tips to reducing wood smoke pollution on their website:

  • Give your fireplace or wood stove the night off.
  • Replace your fireplace or wood stove with a clean burning natural gas device.
  • Insulate your house to keep warmth in.
  • Save energy and reduce pollution by wearing a sweater on chilly nights.
  • Switch to an EPA-certified wood burning device or pellet stove, which emits up to 70% less PM.
  • Burn clean, hotter fires with plenty of air, in order to prevent visible smoke from a chimney or flue; smoke which indicates poor combustion so adjust dampers or fuel accordingly.
  • Never burn, painted wood, treated wood, particle board, plastics, wrapping paper or other garbage; burning them releases toxic chemicals.
  • Burn only dry hardwood fuel such as oak or cherry, which produces less smoke and burns hotter.  Never burn wet wood.
  • Store wood in a dry or covered area and off the ground to keep it from getting wet.
  • Keep your fireplace and stove well maintained to improve airflow and reduce emissions.

These are just some of the things you can do. For more information, contact Bernadette Santos at (510) 642-6568 or visit

Thanks for helping to Spare the Air!