Sorry Bay Area residents. Gathering around the fireplace after a traditional turkey dinner may have sounded like a good idea, but the California Air District regulators won't be having it. A Winter Spare the Air Alert is in effect for this Thursday, meaning that it will be illegal to burn wood.

Specifically, burning wood, firelogs, pellets, or any other solid fuels in your fireplace, woodstove, or other wood-burning device will result in a hefty fine for Bay Area residents of up to $500.

So why is this occurring? It's all about preserving air quality for a part of California that infamously boasts high ozone and other pollutant concentrations.

The "Spare the Air" alert was initially established by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) in 1991 as a way to warn residents when air quality became unhealthy due to a combination of weather factors and weakening ozone, according to the official "Spare the Air" website. The alerts, which also serve as a way to protect the ozone from greenhouse gasses, were quickly adapted by regions also suffering from heavy smog conditions.

The San Francisco Bay Area, known as the Bay Area for short, encompasses metropolitan areas around San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, and several small counties. Because the region is commonly exposed to intense heat waves with little wind exposure, air quality can be dangerously low. Even in the winter, the stagnant air of the region, combined with the heavy nature of cold air, can trap polluting particulates such as car exhaust and smoke.

To avoid forcing residents to choke on the smoke of one another chimneys the BAAQMD will frequently ban wood burning and ask residents to use public transportation during winter months.

China similarly suffers from this problem during winter months, where Beijing can become engulfed in a smoky haze from the region's "slash and burn" method of agriculture.

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