By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program
Ecology started calling burn bans in some Eastern Washington counties on Dec. 3.
And here we are, nearly two weeks later, with the burn bans still in effect in Chelan, Douglas, Okanogan, Ferry, and Stevens counties. In addition, similar Stage 1 burn bans are in effect in Kittitas and Walla Walla counties.
This morning, I mentioned to Clint Bowman, a veteran Ecology forecaster who participates in burn-ban decisions, that I can’t remember such a stretch during my 5+ years with Ecology.
He replied in an email: “It has been quite a while since we had a two-week ban, but we have a strong long wave ridge that seems to be keeping systems to our north (and south – there seems more energy in the southern branch going into northern Mexico than I’ve seen in quite a while).”
Our bans will remain in place until at least Tuesday (Dec. 20). Other clean air agencies have called bans in their jurisdictions; some have been lifted. EPA has bans in effect on some tribal lands around the state.
In Washington, “home heating season” starts around Oct. 1 and continues through March. This is the period when cold temperatures prompt people to fire up their solid fuel heating devices (like wood stoves and pellet stoves).
The problem is that cold temperatures often mean stagnant air conditions. And when the air isn’t moving, the increased smoke from burning to heat homes is trapped where people can breathe it.
Today (Friday, Dec. 16), several media outlets are releasing an in-depth look at the problems wood smoke poses for public health and for the clean-air agencies like Ecology that try to regulate it. Read it here: Where There's Smoke, There's Sickness.
The story is a cooperative effort involving InvestigateWest, KCTS-TV and KUOW Radio. (The story also was published on the Crosscut website.)
The KCTS portion will air on tonight's "Connects" program.