SAN JOSE (KCBS) – As the weather starts to turn colder, the cozy feeling of sitting by a roaring fireplace could lead to a stiff fine if that fire is burning during a winter Spare the Air alert, air quality officials said.

Instead of warning letters, first time violators caught lighting a wood fire on a Spare the Air day will face a $100 fine, said Kristine Roselius, spokeswoman for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

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KCBS’ Mike Colgan Reports:

“Because it’s the fifth season of the winter Spare the Air program, we feel there has been ample time for residents to find out about the rule and how they can check before they burn,” she said.

And instead of paying the fine, violators also have the option of attending Smoke School, Roselius said, adding it was not a joke.

“Smoke School, we’re very serious,” she said.

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“The goal of the winter Spare the Air program is really to educate residents about the health impacts of wood smoke, and also to tell them how they can comply with the rule. That’s our number one goal.”

And that is the bulk of what’s covered in Smoke School, which she said consists of a test that takes about 30 minutes to complete. It can be done online.

The winter Spare the Air season starts Nov. 1.

“We have air quality inspectors Bay Area-wide and we’re looking for you,” Roselius warned.

There were 15 Spare the Air days last winter.

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