Thursday, December 8, 2011

Air Time: Burn bans extended; Walla Walla County added

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

Burn bans will continue until at least Monday (Dec. 12, 2011) in five Eastern Washington counties because stagnant air continues to trap harmful smoke, according to the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology).

In addition, Ecology also is calling a Stage 1 burn ban in Walla Walla County starting at 10 a.m. Friday (Dec. 9).

Ecology’s Stage 1 burn bans for Chelan, Douglas, Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens, and Walla Walla counties will continue until at least 10 a.m. Monday, when they could be called off or extended. The Stage 1 bans apply to unnecessary use of uncertified wood-burning devices (including wood stoves, inserts and fireplaces) and to all outdoor burning. The bans first went into effect on Saturday (Dec. 3).

Ecology’s burn bans do not apply to tribal lands, where the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has jurisdiction.

Smoke from outdoor burning and wood-burning devices builds up where cold air is trapped near the ground. Fine particles in smoke are so small they can easily get into your lungs. Once there, they can cause heart and breathing problems, and even death. Children, people with asthma and respiratory illnesses, and adults older than 65 are most at risk.

Under a Stage 1 ban:
  • Use of uncertified wood-burning devices — including fireplaces, wood stoves and inserts — is prohibited unless they are a home’s only source of heat.

  • All outdoor burning – including residential, agricultural and forest burning – is prohibited.

  • Use of certified wood-burning devices and pellet stoves is allowed. Ecology recommends burning hot fires using only clean, dry wood.

  • No excessive smoke is allowed from any wood-burning device beyond a 20-minute start-up.

  • Burn ban violators are subject to civil penalties.
A 2009 Ecology analysis estimates that fine particles contribute to about 1,100 deaths and millions of dollars in health-care costs each year in Washington.

For updates, check local media reports, Ecology’s daily burn decision hotline (1-800-406-5322) and Ecology’s website. You also can check

The Washington State Department of Health recommends that people who are sensitive to air pollution limit time spent outdoors, especially when exercising. Air pollution can trigger asthma attacks, cause difficulty breathing, and make lung and heart problems worse. Air pollution is especially harmful to people with lung and heart problems, people with diabetes, children, and older adults (over age 65).

Ecology recommends that people limit vehicle trips, combine errands or use public transportation to reduce air pollution.

You can track air quality in your area by using the Washington Air Quality Advisory (WAQA). This is Ecology’s tool for informing people about the health effects of air pollution, including fine particles. It uses color-coded categories to show when air quality is good, moderate or unhealthy.

See this Ecology focus sheet for more information about WAQA.

See a list of certified wood stoves and other information

Tips on getting the most heat from your firewood

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