The Bay Area Air Quality Management District issues Spare the Air Alerts when ozone pollution is forecast to reach unhealthy levels in the Bay Area. In the wintertime, fine particulate matter (PM2.5) becomes the pollutant with the greatest impact on air quality. Fine particulates can bypass the body's natural defenses, penetrating deeply into the lungs and even passing into the bloodstream. Prolonged exposure to the fine particulates in wood smoke has been linked with aggravated asthma, lung and heart disease, and increased mortality rates. Wood burning in fireplaces and woodstoves creates about one-third of the winter particulate matter air pollution in the Bay Area.
When the morning forecast predicts unhealthy particulate matter concentrations, the Air District will issue a Winter Spare the Air Alert. Winter Spare the Air Alerts will be posted on the Spare the Air home page and on the Bay Area Air Quality District's www.baaqmd.gov home page. It will also be recorded at 1.877.4NO.BURN. Residents and businesses can sign up for e-mail AirAlerts and automatic Phone Alerts as well, so they can "check before you burn."
To find out when a Spare the Air Alert is in effect, you can:
- Register for email AirAlerts
- Call 800-HELP-AIR
- Download the Spare the Air app or
- Connect with Spare the Air on Facebook, Twitter and other social media.
- Spare the Air Alerts will also be posted on the Spare the Air and www.baaqmd.gov websites.
To submit a complaint about violations of this new law, you can:
- Call 1.877.4NO.BURN.
Spare the Air Every Day
Help reduce pollution and prevent Spare the Air Alerts! Here are some great ways to Spare the Air and find a better way to work:
- Commute Tips - Visit stacommutetips.org to get all the information you’re looking for about commute programs and incentives available where you live and work.
- Walk or Ride Your Bike - Save money and improve your health, too! Use the Spare the Air app’s Bike Route Planner or the 511 Bike Mapper to plan your trip.
- Take the Bus, Ferry or Train - Save gas and money – and reduce stress! Find the fastest route on 511 Trip Planner.
- Carpool - Commute with colleagues or neighbors instead of driving alone. Find your rideshare match at 511.org.
- Skip a Trip or Link Your Errands - By combining or eliminating trips, you reduce pollution in addition to saving gas and time.
- Keep your tree away from fireplaces, wood burning stoves, portable heaters or other sources of heat.
- Place the tree in an area where it will not block your escape path in the event of an emergency.
- Choose a fresh tree. Do not buy a tree with shedding needles.
- Before mounting your tree in a sturdy stand, cut 1" from the trunk and immediately submerge in water. This keeps sap from clogging water flow.
- Fill tree stand with water daily (or more often as needed) so the tree does not dry out. The average 6-foot tree has a 4-inch diameter trunk and can consume as much as 1 gallon of water per day.
- Use only lights that have the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) label.
- Carefully inspect each set of lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, and loose connections. Discard any damaged light sets.
- Check packaging to determine the maximum number of strings that may be connected together.
- Use only extension cords that have a built-in circuit breaker.
- Do not run cords under throw rugs or carpets.
- Check labels on lights before using them outdoors. Never use indoor lights outside.
- Always unplug lights before you go to bed or leave the house.
Candles, Matches and Lighters
- Never use burning candles on your tree or as part of wreaths.
- Keep candles away from decorations, drapes, furniture and other combustibles.
- Use sturdy, non-combustible candleholders that can collect dripping wax and won't tip over.
- Purchase only child-resistant lighters.
- Always keep matches, lighters and candles out of the reach of children, and don't leave children unattended in a room with lit candles. Teach young children to bring matches and lighters to an adult.
- Always extinguish candles when leaving the room or going to sleep.
Fireplaces, Wood Stoves and Heating Equipment
- Have your chimney and vents inspected annually before burning fire in the fireplace.
- Keep all combustible materials away from fireplaces and wood stoves. Keep portable heaters a minimum of 3 feet from furniture, drapes, blankets and other combustibles.
- Install a spark arrester with a 1/2" mesh screen on chimney or stovepipe outlets to prevent flying embers from igniting a roof fire.
- Never use flammable liquids to start a fire.
- Use a screen to enclose the front of your fireplace to confine live embers and sparks. Keep Christmas stockings, holiday decorations, and furniture at a safe distance from fireplace.
- Never burn Christmas trees or wrapping paper in the fireplace or wood stove. Both burn very intensely and may cause a roof or chimney fire.
- Firelogs (such as duraflame) Usage and Safety Tips:
- DO NOT use in wood stoves or BBQS.
- DO NOT use for cooking.
- Burn only ONE log at a time - the wax component of the product produces twice the BTU heat value per pound of wood, allowing one firelong to provide a fire equivalent to several pieces of wood. Burning more than one log at a time could result in too large or too hot of fire in your fireplace.
- Position logs at the rear of the fireplace on an adequate supporting grate.
- DO NOT use pokers or tongs to move firelogs. These logs are designed to burn in a controlled manner and do not require tending.
- Consider replacing your wood burning fireplace with a gas fireplace. For more information.
- Install smoke alarms inside and outside all sleeping areas and a carbon monoxide alarm in the home.
Test alarms monthly and replace batteries annually.
- Install fire extinguishers where they are easily accessible.
- Make a home escape plan with family members. Your plan should include two exits out of every room and a common meeting place outside. Practice your home escape plan.
- Teach family members that if a fire does occur to crawl low under smoke to make a safe escape.
- Teach all family members how to report an emergency by calling 911.
A "Red Flag Warning" is a forecast warning issued by the United States National Weather Service to inform area firefighting agencies that conditions are ideal for wildland fire ignition and propagation. A "Red Flag Warning" means high fire danger with increased probability of a quickly spreading vegetation fire in the area within 24 hours.
Red flags will fly at all Santa Clara County Fire Department fire stations to alert the public when the National Weather Service has issued a "Red Flag Warning" for Santa Clara County. Use of the red flags is one element of Santa Clara County Fire Department's comprehensive effort to enhance our community members' knowledge regarding fire prevention and defensible space requirements.
Community members can take steps to protect their homes, their property, and themselves. Santa Clara County Fire Department urges everyone to follow these guidelines:
- Be careful with fire. It is estimated that people cause 90% of wildfires.
- Create a defensible space around all structures by clearing flammable vegetation to a minimum of 100' or to the property line.
- Remove tree limbs within 10' of chimneys and stovepipes.
- Remove pine needles and leaves from roofs, eaves, and rain gutters.
- Remember that lawnmowers are for use on lawns. Do not use them on dry grass or weeds; doing so can start a fire.
- Always mow before 10am. Dry grass has the highest amount of moisture during the morning hours.
- Dispose of cigarettes properly. Do not discard cigarettes on roadsides or in dry grass.
- Be alert: Immediately report small fires by calling 9-1-1.
- Avoid activities in or adjacent to dry grass or brush covered areas, such as weed mowing or disking, metal cutting, grinding or welding, using chain saws or any other activity that could produce a spark or flame.
- Park vehicles with hot catalytic converters only on paved or dirt areas; not on grass.
- Most important: Have a plan for gathering family members, pets, and valuables in case an approaching wildfire requires evacuation.
Santa Clara County Fire Department and California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) Santa Clara Unit participate in alerting the community of "Red Flag Warnings."
In addition to flying red flags on extreme fire weather days, the Santa Clara County Fire Department is teaching wildland fire safety awareness to community members as part of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training.
For additional information about fire safety and fire resistant landscaping, visit the following websites:
Santa Clara County FireSafe Council
Keep Cool and Protect Yourself from the Heat
The warm weather is upon us and the Santa Clara County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) System, Santa Clara County Fire Chiefs Association, and the Public Health Department offer the following tips for hot weather safety. Below are a few simple tips that can help you, your family, and your friends enjoy the warm weather and outdoor activities while lessening your chances of experiencing heat-related illness.
- Drink plenty of liquids. Drink water and sports drinks—even if you don’t feel thirsty. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and sugar, because they cause your body to lose fluids.
- Limit physical activity. Avoid physical activity during the hottest time of the day—10am-3pm.
- NEVER leave people or pets in a closed, parked car. Always check the back seat of the vehicle prior to walking away.
- Stay in air-conditioned areas. Help keep cool by spending time at malls, libraries, movie theatres, and community centers.
- Cool off by taking a bath or shower. Cool, plain water baths or moist towels work best. Do not cool children in alcohol baths.
- Wear cool clothing. Lightweight, light-colored and loose-fitting clothing can help you keep cool. Cotton clothes are good because they let sweat evaporate.
- Do not bundle babies. Babies do not handle heat well because their sweat glands are not fully developed. Do not put them in blankets or heavy clothing.
- Cover your head. Wear a wide-brimmed, vented hat or use an umbrella when outdoors because your head absorbs heat easily.
- Wear sunglasses and sunscreen. Use sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher when outdoors.
- Rest often in shady areas. Find shady places to cool down when outdoors.
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