Winter Spare the Air

Everybody’s talking about the horrendous air pollution in Beijing, where the US Embassy posts their PM2.5 measurements online. As of today, the PM2.5 results in an Air Quality Index of 105. Anything between 101 and 150 is considered “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups.”

SF Bay Area vs Beijing Air Quality

In the meantime, the San Francisco Bay Area Air Quality Management District has issued its fourth winter “Spare the Air” alert for this season. The air quality is forecast to be unhealthy for sensitive groups (USG) for parts of the Bay Area Wednesday through this weekend.

SF Bay Area vs Beijing Air Quality

Winter air pollution is mainly caused by particulates or soot pollution from wood smoke, according to the BAAQMD. It is illegal for Bay Area residents to burn wood or other solid fuels in fireplaces, wood stoves and inserts, pellet stoves, outdoor fire-pits, or other wood-burning devices. This wood-burning ban will be in effect for Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, southern Sonoma and southwestern Solano Counties.

I live in Santa Cruz County, which has no wood burning restrictions. That means I’m coughing my lungs out all winter as my neighbors enjoy their picturesque fireplaces on cold nights.


  1. You can still burn wood if it’s your only source of heat.
    here is the exemption document:

    What an awful chart using similar colors to show regions, but also severity in the table right next to it.

    You don’t link to the source of your table which is at:
    it’s awfully explained too. i guess they give you numbers for tomorrow and the next day, but names like ‘Moderate’ and ‘Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups’ USG.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.