Will You Observe a Voluntary Ban on Christmastime Fires?

Christmas is a time of hearth and home, but the Bay Area Air Quality Management District is asking residents to skip the yule log.

By Bay City News Service

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is asking Bay Area residents to skip the fire in the fireplace on Christmas Eve to keep air quality healthy on Christmas Day.

Burning wood is not illegal on Christmas Eve, but officials are asking residents to observe a voluntary ban.

"The break in the blustery weather will cause smoke pollution to build on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning," said Jack Broadbent, the district's executive officer. "We are asking the public to voluntarily not burn on Christmas Eve to help reduce pollution levels and avoid the need to call a Winter Spare the Air Alert on Christmas Day."

The holidays are typically periods of high wood smoke pollution because so many people light a fire for Christmas, according to the district. Wood smoke contains pollutants such as soot and carbon monoxide and dioxin, and can cause breathing difficulties for many people.

The public should check before they burn throughout the winter Spare the Air season, from Nov. 1 to Feb. 28th. Check online at www.baaqmd.gov or www.sparetheair.org.

Producer December 24, 2012 at 09:56 PM
We'll probably have a nice, warm fire tonight.
Rona December 24, 2012 at 10:19 PM
I seriously do not think using a fireplace is what contributes to our yucky air. It may a little bit but not in its entirety. Its used only for the cold months anyways right?? Your fireplace??. Who is using their fireplace in the summer??? Meaning why all the fuss or care about whether you are burning using your fireplace for Christmas. Also, I live in an apartment so no worries from me. I feel bad for those affected by smoke but what can you do?? My sister has bad allergies and animals, dust, and pollen flares it up, but what can you do?? Live on the moon?? Not being mean just saying. This article is weird or thought it was a weird question so clicked on it, and 2) reading the comments it looks like people are going to do what they want to do.
Rona December 24, 2012 at 10:21 PM
oops meant "care about whether you are using your"..drop the word burning...typing too fast:(
Erika Lockhart December 24, 2012 at 11:07 PM
I rarely use my fireplace but was thinking about doing it on Christmas. I like the smell of wood smoke - reminds me of childhood and fires in the fireplace. Sure beats the smell of diesel exhaust! I think it would be better to ask everyone to refrain from driving on the holiday. Another thing - I went to the the Lucky in El Cerrito yesterday and they are staying open all day. I think it's really sad that they are working on the holiday, at least past noon. I would like to encourage everyone to get their shopping done today and boycott those stores. One clerk said that "corporate" was hoping that people would come in to buy last minute stuff and do other shopping...seems cruel. Let people spend time with their families.
John Stashik December 24, 2012 at 11:27 PM
I loved the triple pay on holidays. No problem working Xmas. Ka-Ching is the sound of the season!
virgo December 24, 2012 at 11:32 PM
i agree! my mom only burns a fire once a year and it's on christmas morning. it pisses me off that BAAQMD always makes that day a spare the air day.
Robin M. Blind December 25, 2012 at 12:33 AM
Yeah but...some people have childhoods they don't WANNA remember and...as for those lucky Lucky clerks...maybe not all of 'em HAVE families! Maybe some of 'em'd RATHER go to work...have something to do and be around other otherwise-lonely people. Jes sayin'. Not EVERYBODY 'gets off' on Christmas.
don December 25, 2012 at 12:34 AM
Dorothy Coakley December 25, 2012 at 01:01 AM
Oh dear. Pretty day this 24th with the air clear from all the rain yesterday. Will tomorrow be smoggy? Not because of this household..no fire, no car fumes, no smoking' turkey. I'm not going the holier-than-thou route. Just following HD Thoreau...simplify, simplify, simplify.
Winifred Owen December 25, 2012 at 01:12 AM
Clever handle, Robin M. Blind. ;-)
94502er December 25, 2012 at 04:02 AM
And now we know why spare the air day is needed! LOL...some people are are just ignorant. Have fun having to pay those Doctor bills later on in life....
Jack Freethy December 25, 2012 at 05:16 AM
My neighbor's fire puts out a wonderful aroma of a fresh fire. I invited myself over to enjoy the ambiance of his cozy fire. I do not trust the Bay Area quality Control Board. Their bureaucratic pressure lack common sense and takes away some of the simple pleasures we still have in life.
Robin M. Blind December 25, 2012 at 05:40 AM
Yeah! The BAAQMD doesn't know anything! They just don't want anybody to have any fun!
Margaret Tong December 25, 2012 at 06:15 AM
och! just the one day for a few hours. Can ye no make sure sure your lums are swept and your winter fuel is pure? I miss leaves burning and coal fires. Enjoy for the one day if that's the only day you can enjoy your fireplace. I'm sure estate agents list fireplaces as a feature in a house to sell. What's the point of that if ye're no supposed to use it?
Paul D December 25, 2012 at 02:07 PM
I've got the fireplace, got the wood and the weather is perfect for a nice XMAS fire. And its good to be concerned about health, but if you're serious, take a good hard look at I80 and see the real source of air problems -- cars and most especially.. diesel trucks.
Alex Gronke (Editor) December 25, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Here's some fuel for the fire: "Residential wood burning appears to be the largest single source of wintertime PM2.5, a conclusion supported both by ambient data and the emissions." Pg. 34 inventoryhttp://www.baaqmd.gov/~/media/Files/Planning%20and%20Research/Research%20and%20Modeling/Sources%20of%20Bay%20Area%20Fine%20Particles.ashx
Alex Gronke (Editor) December 25, 2012 at 04:49 PM
http://www.baaqmd.gov/Divisions/Planning-and-Research/Research-and-Modeling/Publications/Reports.aspx See the first report titled, "Sources of Bay Area Fine Particles"
Robin M. Blind December 25, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Ah, Alex, why'd ya havta go and distract us with facts? Can't ya see that Christmas is all about people doin' & gettin' what they want? I mean...can't these folks with lung problems just not breathe...just for ONE day?
Mark Kay December 25, 2012 at 07:52 PM
You know, just because other things pollute the air doesn't mean, "Fudge it. The world has many problems so what I do hardly counts." Well, it means something to your neighbors who have breathing issues. I see that philosophy as a particularly mean way to live.
Mark Kay December 25, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Also, if people don't want to work on religious holidays they shouldn't have to. But I agree with John: ka ching is truly what the holidays are about. And it is soooo true not everyone is into the big Xmas thing. Xmas is for children and the children's enjoyment.
Robin M. Blind December 25, 2012 at 07:59 PM
Mark, you make an excellent point. And...if I didn't know better, I'd a thought that Christmas might be a time when people might focus more on the needs and concerns of others rather than wanting to 'milk' the season for their own pleasure. Thank you.
3rdgenberkeleyan December 26, 2012 at 07:58 AM
what about the air in the area of the coal fired electric co-generation plant that makes the electricity for house they don't want to breath that air but have no choice...not in my backyard i guess?
Diane December 27, 2012 at 09:29 AM
When my neighbors burn wood in their fireplaces, the smoke seems to travel upwind, toward our house and gets trapped on my deck and front home area. I have asthma and it becomes a problem going outdoors or opening the exterior doors to my house. After awhile, the entire neighborhood reeks of burned wood and the air becomes blanketed by the smoke. It's quite smelly and makes it difficult for me to breathe. I think the person who wrote about the electric fireplaces has the right idea. Wood fires may be pretty to look at, but one should consider how it may affect those who are at risk breathing those harmful particulates. On those Spare the Air Days, I am saved me from getting sick from the air pollution caused by those wood fires.
Jon Spangler December 27, 2012 at 05:34 PM
With no fireplace in our apartment and only electric heat we can easily honor the BAAQMD's request. And Alameda Municipal Power's energy is still greener than most, even after AMP's decision to sell its green power crediits to other utilities for cash instead of keeping Alameda greener...
Barbara Hill December 29, 2012 at 02:27 AM
When we remodeled our house, we had the fireplace removed completely. Good thing, too - the chimney was cracked and the flue had holes in it - we could have burned down our house! Now, instead, we play a BluRay DVD of a fireplace fire on our TV set. We can play it with Christmas music, or romantic music, or classical music, or no music at all, just the sound of a crackling fire. It is very pleasant and comforting, but there's no muss, no fuss, no bother.
Donna Soares December 29, 2012 at 03:05 AM
Absolutely not. No one is going to tell me what to do in my house.
Eric Bordax December 29, 2012 at 06:22 AM
Yes, except for this particular thing affects other people.
Susan January 02, 2013 at 05:31 PM
I have no heat in my house other than a professionally installed fireplace insert that burns wood. Since that is my only source of heat, homeowners such as myself are exempt from any of these rules. There are other factors such as: what you are burning (fine hard wood such as dried oak produces less smog) and whether you are using an EPA approved wood insert. I have been taking bart to work now for 25 plus years, emitting nothing on I-80. I have no problems at all using my wood insert to heat my house.
Mark Kay January 02, 2013 at 08:24 PM
Wonder if your neighbors might have a problem? I guess their problems aren't your problems. Same old story...
Mark Kay January 02, 2013 at 08:27 PM
Just do what you want and anyone with breathing issues can lump it. Nice.


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