SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – The stagnant weather in the Bay Area has prompted a string of Winter Spare the Air days for the region, but not everyone has to abide by the rules.

During Winter Spare the Air days, it is illegal to burn wood, manufactured fire logs or any other solid fuels, indoors or outdoors. But it’s a different story for Bay Area restaurant owners.

That’s because restaurants make money, pay employees, and have to pay bills.

“We don’t want to put them out of business,” said Tom Flannigan with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

Flannigan said that although all wood burning devices cause pollution, the majority come from homes.

“Wood burning ovens represent a very small fraction of the overall wood burning devices in the Bay Area,” said Flannigan. “We have 1.4 million fireplaces throughout the Bay Area.”

For years, restaurants, grills and pizza places have used wood or mesquite fired ovens to cook, and in some places, that is the only means of cooking.

“In 2008, when the rule went into place, an exemption was made for cooking food, due to the impact on small businesses that do that sort of thing,” said Flannigan.

Christmas marked the 18th Winter Spare the Air day in the Bay Area for this season, which runs from November 1 through February 28. Normally, first-time violators are hit with a $100 fine, with subsequent violations costing $500 or more.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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