Washington State Department of Ecology - October 22, 2013

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Hazy skies call for clean burning to help avoid burn bans

YAKIMA - As temperatures drop, smoke will increase in many Washington communities as residents fire up wood-burning devices to heat their homes.

When smoke combines with diesel emissions and other tiny pollution particles, air quality can quickly degrade and sometimes cause bans on burning. Wood smoke is one of the most serious air pollution problems in Washington, according to the Washington Department of Ecology.

If you live in an area where polluted air is common and you have another way to heat your home, please think twice before lighting your wood stove or other wood-burning device. Many communities in Washington suffer poor air quality during the home heating season and can be at risk of failing to meet state and federal air quality standards to protect human health.

Burning wood can be a cheap way to heat your home if done correctly. However, if your wood is wet, burning can be inefficient and thus more costly: it takes nearly twice as much green wood than dry wood to create the hot fire you want. This is especially true with older wood burning devices. Burning wet wood – and burning more of it because it’s too wet or green – produces more smoke than burning dry wood. So make sure your wood is well cured.

How burn bans work

When fine particle pollution reaches unsafe levels, Ecology and local clean air agencies can call burn bans in their jurisdictions. These bans protect people’s health by limiting smoke from burning wood, yard debris or agricultural waste in those areas.

Ecology and the clean air agencies use news media and social media to get out information on burn bans. The information also is available online at waburnbans.net. Ecology post notices about its burn bans at www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/air/outdoor_woodsmoke/Burn_Ban.htm.

Burn bans are called in two stages.

Stage 1 burn bans are called based on expected weather conditions and rising pollution levels. No burning is allowed in wood-burning fireplaces, uncertified wood stoves or uncertified fireplace inserts, unless it is your only adequate heat source.

Stage 2 burn bans are called when fine particle pollution levels reach a "trigger value" set by state law, and are not expected to drop for at least a day. No burning is allowed in any wood-burning fireplace, wood stove or fireplace insert (even certified models), unless it is your only adequate source of heat.

During both Stage 1 and Stage 2 burn bans, all outdoor burning is prohibited. The bans include agricultural and forest burning.

Violating a burn ban could lead to penalties, including fines. More information is available online at www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/air/airhome.html

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Media Contacts:
 Joye Redfield-Wilder, 509-575-2610; joye.redfield-wilder@ecy.wa.gov; @ecycentral
 Brook Beeler, 509 329-3478; brook.beeler@ecy.wa.gov; @ecyspokane


For more information:

Air quality home page (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/air/airhome.html)

Video on how to operate your woodstove more efficiently (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/air/indoor_woodsmoke/wood_heat_at_home.wmv)

Ecology’s social media (www.ecy.wa.gov/about/newmedia.html)