Sunny, Warm Thanksgiving weekend brings winter’s first Spare the Air Alert

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF/BCN) – As sunny and warm temperatures approach the San Francisco Bay Area this holiday weekend, local air officials issued a Spare the Air alert – the first of winter.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) issued a Spare the Air Alert for Friday, calling for people to abstain from burning wood, manufactured fire logs or any other solid fuel in fireplaces or outdoors. 

The alert comes as KPIX’s chief meteorologist Paul Heggen forecasted a warm Thanksgiving, with temperatures reaching mid 60s along the coast and low to mid 70s inland.

“Passing clouds Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but still dry. Temperatures will steadily drop back to near-average by Sunday (low to mid 60s area-wide),” according to Heggen. “Monday’s rain chance has all but disappeared. If we pick up anything more than a trace, it would be a surprise at this point.”

Though a raging fire in the fireplace can make for a cozy holiday weekend, the smoke from them can cause unhealthy air quality, BAAQMD said. High pressure over Northern California will act like a lid, trapping smoke at ground level. Offshore winds may also transport air pollution from the Central Valley into the Bay Area. 

But burning fuels on a Spare the Air day is not just discouraged, it’s also illegal, though people who rely on wood stoves or fireplaces as their only source of heat are permitted to use them. However, such households must use US Environmental Protection Agency-certified or pellet-fueled devices that are registered with the Air District. Open-hearth fireplaces no longer qualify for exemptions, BAAQMD said. 

“Residents can help protect the respiratory health of their families and communities by refraining from wood burning– the number one source of wintertime air pollution in the Bay Area,” said Sharon Landers, interim executive officer of BAAQMD.

In San Francisco, the National Park Service has also prohibited recreational beach fires at Ocean Beach and in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area through the end of February. 

Those found violating Spare the Air orders will be asked to take a wood smoke awareness course; those who do not partake in that education will be given a $100 ticket. People with second violations are subject to a $500 ticket, with the ticket amount increasing for any subsequent violations. 

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