Would You Report Neighbors for Burning Wood on a Spare the Air Day?

Bay Area Air Quality Management District has collected $800 in fines in two years for illegal residential wood burning.

Last winter, Bay Area Air Quality Management District received 3,777 citizen complaints about residential wood burning during the season’s 15 Spare the Air days. Those complaints resulted in a total of 346 warnings to wood burners in nine counties and 13 tickets carrying a $400 fine.

Sonoma County received the most warnings, as shown in the table below.

Aaron Richardson, a spokesman for the District, said by email that the agency has only collected $800 in fines from the previous two winters, but that the chief point of banning wood fires on certain winter days is about improving air quality, not raising revenue. He added that early studies suggest that wood burning may be down by 15 percent from five years ago.

Here's how the District enforces wood burning bans:

“We have about 70 inspectors on staff, and though not all of them are dispatched at any one time for wood burning duty, we send out patrols of various sizes on Winter Spare the Air days, depending on the day and availability.

“Inspectors must witness and document a violation to issue a citation.  We track all complaints received and use those to help plan neighborhoods to patrol.

“They look for smoke, and are trained in smoke plume recognition and opacity, and they must go to the physical location of the fire to determine and document the source before writing a citation.”

Warnings and Tickets Issued for Wood Burning on Winter Spare the Air Days Winter 2010-2011 (4 days of ban) Winter 2011-2012 (15 days of ban) County Warnings Tickets Warnings Tickets Alameda 5 0 10 0 Contra Costa 5 1 57 4 Marin 5 0 48 3 Napa 0 0 51 1 San Francisco 0 0 1 0 Santa Clara 13 1 32 2 San Mateo 2 0 31 1 Solano 0 0 8 0 Sonoma 29 0 108 2 Total 59 2 346 13

Source: BAAQMD

This season, first time offenders, who would have previously received a warning letter, will now be obliged to take an online class on the public health impacts of wood smoke. 

Middle Class January 06, 2013 at 05:29 PM
I would never report or complain about someone for burning on a no burn day. Causing one of your neighbors to be fined $400.00 for trying to stay warm makes you a jerk and a snitch. You can run a stop sign and immediately endanger the safety of others and the fine is only $238.00. Don't be a "Green Police" snitch and try to be a better member of your community. Talk to your neighbors, not some greedy government agency.
Dee Baucher January 06, 2013 at 05:40 PM
Some neighbors might be hostile and resistant to requests to avoid burning wood. For families with asthma or other serious lung problems, the quality of our air has significant impact on their lives. Just like smokers who refuse to stop smoking cigarettes where others are negatively effected, those who insist upon burning wood on no burn days need to be penalized. Clean air should be a right for all of us.
Mellissa Irish January 06, 2013 at 05:42 PM
yes, as a asthma sufferer and fellow member of this planet I would. The smog is killing plants and animals. There are plenty of ways to heat a home as well as clean ways to have fires such as gas, and if you are so poor as to only heat your house by fireplace you are exempt from such fines anyways.
Larry Cereghino January 06, 2013 at 06:08 PM
I would never turn in some one for burning wood.... now lets turn some on ein for driving while on a cell phone..I was almost hit inthe cross walk... and I read her lips.. Im sorry,,well sorry wont work if she had of hit me..I parked my truck and walked that day to save gas.... you need to know where to pick your fights....
Angela White January 06, 2013 at 07:00 PM
Sonoma is such an interesting place to live. I don't understand what is wrong with burning wood? I would bet that those same people that would call the police on a neighbor on a "spare the air day" would just as easily jump in their exhaust producing car to go half a block to the post office or grocery store. Pick your battles is right! Reporting my neighbor for burning wood is not one of them.. How about on "spare the air day" we ride a bike. I can guarantee that would make more of an impact than not burning wood.
Active Thinker January 06, 2013 at 08:49 PM
Angela is right. Please give me a break on buring wood. Look at the big trucks that drive around our county...and people never riding bikes...going to the mall or walmart or what ever...pick the battle is right....Some of my neighbors are cool and some are just lame...Some people will report you...PGE and is a rip-off...
Wire January 06, 2013 at 11:23 PM
No! If you live north of Windsor's Village Green you can burn all you want, a split county why? I even BBQ.
SP January 07, 2013 at 12:19 AM
I suppose you also try to avoid buying products from China which burns more dirty coal than any other nation in the world. Ratting someone out for staying warm is despicable. In fact, knowing that there are SEVENTY inspectors is proof again of government fat.
Jennifer January 07, 2013 at 05:37 AM
I live in Sonoma Valley and my neighbors are chain cigarette smokers. Their cig smoke is disgusting and permeates my home. My other neighbors may burn a fire place for a few evening hours. It doesn't permeate my life at all. To report burning...I'd like to report my cigarette smoking neighbors that seem to smoke non stop between 6:30 am and 11:30 pm.
Wire January 07, 2013 at 04:01 PM
Those chain cigarette smokers pay a really high TAX for their right to smoke, that tax money going into the State's general FUN tax. It's not really going to the sick, asthma sufferers and fellow member of this planet care. I'm not saying cigarette smoke, diesel, or cell phone should be in here. I don't like the cigarette smoker at the front door area of a store as your walking from the parking lot. I do hold my breath for that time period. This was about wood burning I use Kingsford not lp gas.
Disgusted in Sonoma January 07, 2013 at 07:06 PM
My neighbors are snitches. They will get there's. Snitches should beware.
Questioning January 07, 2013 at 07:42 PM
I have not noticed the government offering to buy back the wood stoves they made legally unuseable or the cost of the natural gas we have to use when they announce a spare the air day. But if the citation above is correct and they have 70 inspectors we are talking at least $3,500,000 in wages. That much could buy a lot of old style wood stoves which would probably have a greater impact on improving air quality.
Belle (Orchid Lady) January 07, 2013 at 09:39 PM
Disgusted in Sonoma- are you ma king a threat in a public forum?
Disgusted in Sonoma January 08, 2013 at 05:45 AM
If you are ass umeimg that than you are a jackass. Grow up!
andrew January 09, 2013 at 02:41 AM
Is it really the government's or your neighbors' business what you are burning in your own home? it's a cheap and reliable way to heat your home and for a lot of people may be the only way they have to keep warm aside from piling on another layer of clothes. remember that burning fossil fuels pollutes your environment next time your hypocrytical self wants to report one of your neighbors for trying to keep warm. the amount of energy it takes to bring you the gallon of gas it takes to drive 30 miles is inconceivable. you can find wood in your backyard. what's going to harm the planet more, drilling into the seafloor for precious black gold and then refining it so everybody has the CONVENIENCE of transportation, or allowing the few people who still heat their homes with fire to allow them to continue doing so? let's ask the people who live on the gulf of mexico what they think. i want you liberals to remember that next time you get into your cars and start your unleaded gasoline burning engine. ps you're a dick and a shitty neighbor if you reported somebody for burning wood, or burning things that ARENT wood in their backyard. or growing it. you'll get yours when disaster strikes the bay area and your family has nowhere to go and nowhere to keep warm because you alienated yourself from your neighbors. love and mercy.
Wire January 09, 2013 at 05:18 AM
Was reading today that aspirin, Advil, other over the counter pain killers maybe a cause asthma attacks also.


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