Skip to main content

What’s going on with air quality in San Francisco?

A person stands on a hill overlooking a dense cityscape with tall buildings and a bridge in the background.
People walk in the Bernal Heights Park with the San Francisco skyline in the background on Friday, June 10, 2022. | Camille Cohen/The Standard | Source: Camille Cohen/The Standard

It’s not your imagination. It’s a bit hazy out there and tomorrow will be worse.

Some residents have been burning wood to stay warm during these cold days and nights. That increase in particulate matter (a.k.a. “soot”) combined with the high pressure sitting over the region makes for poor air quality. 

The haze is serious enough that burning wood or any other solid fuel in the Bay Area is prohibited on Monday, both indoors and outdoors, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District announced in a Spare the Air alert on Sunday.

The air district said the Bay Area will likely have unhealthy air quality as the region faces high pressure, which will trap wood smoke at ground level. Combined with freezing night temperatures, fog, light wind and high air pollution from the Central Valley, the district said residents may be exposed to higher levels of fine particulate pollution. 

"Wood smoke is expected to create hazy skies and unhealthy air quality throughout the Bay Area tomorrow," said Sharon Landers, interim executive officer of the Air District. "By not burning wood, we can reduce the harmful health impacts on our families and neighbors this holiday season."

As a result, residents and businesses are prohibited from using fireplaces, wood stoves, pellet stoves, outdoor fire pits or any other device that burns wood during the alert. Homes without permanently installed heating are an exemption, though they must use an EPA-certified or registered pellet-fueled device.

The district said exposure to wood smoke, which contains carcinogens, can increase the risk of respiratory illness and heart attacks. Children, the elderly and people with respiratory conditions are most affected by wood smoke.

More information on Spare the Air alerts and the latest air quality forecasts can be found on the air district’s website.