FAIRBANKS—The first air quality alert this winter was issued Monday by the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

The Stage 1 alert, under which burning firewood and coal are prohibited without a waiver, was issued for North Pole, according to the Air Quality Division website.

"People should utilize their cleaner source of heat," said Nick Czarnecki, manager of the borough's Air Quality Division.

Conditions at the time of the alert showed the air quality index in North Pole was "unhealthy for sensitive groups."

The Stage 1 alert is in effect until 5 p.m. Tuesday and applies to neighborhoods on the east side of Badger Road to the city of North Pole and beyond.

High levels of harmful PM2.5, or fine particulate pollution, prompted the alert. Most affected are young people, older people, and people with heart and lung illnesses, who are encouraged to avoid prolonged exertion.

The air in Fairbanks was "moderate," according to data from monitors posted around the borough whose readings are published on the municipal website.

New, tougher rules are in place this winter in an ongoing effort to reduce levels of PM2.5, a byproduct of wood smoke that has been linked with heart and lung illnesses in multiple scientific studies.

Previously, actions called for in a Stage 1 alert were voluntary. Now they are mandatory. Violators get one warning and risk a $500 fine, though only one person has been cited by the borough for allegedly violating an air quality ordinance.

The air pollution season comes later this year than last year when North Pole experienced its first burn ban in October.

Czarnecki said the weather has been favorable for air dispersion. Smoke pollution is typically a problem when the air is stagnant.

"It hasn't been stagnant," he said. "Hopefully, this will break up before Thanksgiving. We are supposed to have some precipitation."

"It's all weather driven," he added.

For more information, call 459-1234 or go to www.aqfairbanks.com.

Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7587. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMborough.