20 Nov 2008

SF Targets Fireplaces

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The latest anti-crime crusade in liberal San Francisco is focused on people lighting fireplaces on the wrong day. It’s important to have the right priorities about these things, after all.

SF Chronicle reports.

For the first time ever, residential fires are illegal under a new law, passed in July, that bans home burning on winter season Spare the Air days.

The first such ban took effect at noon. Seventy inspectors from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District planned to spend the day and evening patrolling residential neighborhoods, looking for telltale chimney wisps.

Violators will get warnings by mail. Repeat offenders face fines of as much as $2,000.

The fireplace police say they are determined to keep law and order in the living room.

“We’re serious,” said district spokeswoman Kristine Roselius. “This is a major health threat. The weather conditions are such that smoke is trapped closer to the ground and anyone with respiratory problems will have a hard time breathing.”

With 1.4 million fireplaces in the Bay Area, Roselius said the district is hoping for voluntary compliance. It notes that wood burning produces about one-third of the particulate pollution on a typical winter night.

The district predicts as many as 20 Spare the Air days during the winter season, which air quality officials define as Nov. 1 through Feb. 28. That means it could be illegal to fire up the fireplace as often as one day in every six.

Similar bans have been in place in the San Joaquin Valley and in the Pacific Northwest for several years.

After the initial warning, repeat violators will face fines, some as high as four figures. In other no-burn districts, offenders have been permitted to do penance by attending “smoke school,” similar to traffic school. But the Bay Area is a no-school zone.


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