Spare the Air Program FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions - Spare the Air Program

What is the Spare the Air program?

The Air District established the Spare the Air program in 1991 to reduce air pollution and provide advance notice when air quality is forecast to be unhealthy. 

The summer Spare the Air program is focused on educating the public and promoting changes in behavior that will help prevent unhealthy air quality

The Winter Spare the Air program, which runs from November through the end of February, alerts residents on days when it is illegal to use their fireplaces or wood stoves.

The Spare the Air Employer Program provides more than 2,100 businesses with free tools to educate employees about pollution prevention and advises them when a Spare the Air Alert is issued.

Community Resource Teams provide an opportunity for local residents to work together and plan educational activities and programs that reduce air pollution in their communities.

What is a Spare the Air Alert?

A Spare the Air Alert is called when air quality is forecast to be unhealthy. It is issued the day before unhealthy air is forecast. 

In the summer, Bay Area residents are asked to reduce their driving to help minimize pollution, and people who are sensitive to unhealthy air are advised to limit their time outdoors, particularly in the afternoon hours.

When a Winter Spare the Air Alert is called in the winter, between November and February, the use of wood-burning devices is prohibited indoors and outdoors.

When do Spare the Air Alerts usually occur?

In the Bay Area, the summer Spare the Air season generally runs from April through October. On long, hot days, pollutants emitted primarily in vehicle exhaust combine in the presence of sunlight to form ozone, which is the main constituent of smog.

The Bay Area’s winter Spare the Air season runs from November through the end of February. On cold, still days, temperature inversions trap residential wood smoke close to the ground to create unhealthy air quality. When a Winter Spare the Air Alert is called, the use of all wood-burning devices is prohibited both indoors and outdoors.

How will I know when a Spare the Air Alert has been called?

There are many ways to be informed about Spare the Air Alerts.

Spare the Air Alerts are shown prominently on the www.baaqmd.gov and www.sparetheair.org websites, as well as Air District social media venues.

You can call 1-800-HELP AIR year-round, and 1-877 4NO-BURN in the wintertime, to find out if a Spare the Air Alert is in effect.

You can sign up for AirAlerts, an email service that informs the public the day before a Spare the Air Alert is called.

In the winter, you can sign up to receive an automated phone call when a Winter Spare the Air Alert is in effect.

You can also download the Spare the Air iphone or android app.

Many television and radio stations announce Spare the Air Alerts. And several Bay Area newspapers carry the air quality forecast, usually on the weather page of the papers.

Wood Burning Status
Wood Burning Status
  • illegal to burn

    Wednesday,
    12/13

    Winter Spare the Air Alert in Effect

  • illegal to burn

    Thursday,
    12/14

    Winter Spare the Air Alert in Effect

Last Updated: 7/15/2015