Getting warmed in front of the fireplace seems to be a cozy thing to do with the chilly conditions brought by the winter weather, but the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) has called for a Winter Spare the Air day for Monday, Jan. 5, which means that burning of woods indoors and outdoors will be prohibited for 24 hours.

BAAQMD officials announced on Sunday the 10th Spare the Air day for this season, during which it will be illegal to use wood burning devices. Homes and residents in the Bay area will be prohibited from using fireplaces, woodstoves, pellet stoves, outdoor fire pit and other wood burning devices. Only homes that do not have permanently installed heating and where their only sources of heat are fireplaces and woodstoves would be exempted.

Officials from the air district said that the ban had to be implemented because the cold weather and high pressure systems caused a buildup of fine particle pollution. The Winter Spare the Air season, which runs from November to February, was established in response to findings of studies that show increased health risks associated with inhaling fine particulate matter.

Wood smoke also contains carcinogenic substances that make the air harmful to breathe and is particularly hazardous to children, the elderly and those who have heart and respiratory problems.

"Although air quality is expected to improve mid-week, it is important that Bay Area residents not burn wood during this alert to protect public health," said Air District executive officer Jack Broadbent. "We are asking the public to consider the health of their family and neighbors in the New Year by using cleaner, more efficient heating options for their homes."

Here are some do's and don'ts for those who live in Bay Area when a Winter Spare the Air Alert is issued:

Refrain from burning wood, firelogs, or pellets. Gas-fueled fireplaces and logs, electrical fireplaces, or gas inserts can be used instead.

When wood burning is allowed, burn cleanly by using dry and seasoned firewood. Do not use plastic, wrapping paper, garbage or other materials that could cause excessive smoke.

Using fires for cooking is not prohibited but be mindful of the air quality. Use gas or propane instead of wood or charcoal-fired cooking devices.

People who are caught burning wood during Spare the Air alerts will receive a $100 fine. They can also opt to take a wood smoke awareness class to learn about the hazards of wood smoke. Second-time violators will receive a $500 ticket.

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