Residential burn ban protocols
The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency has been issuing wintertime burn bans during episodes of poor air quality since the late 1980s. During these burn bans, the Clean Air Agency has prohibited the use of primarily uncertified wood stoves and fireplaces in order to reduce pollution and lessen the impact on public health.
Our burn ban program has evolved over the years to reflect updates in health information and mandated air quality standards.
New, more restrictive burn ban requirements began in the 2008-2009 heating season. The changes were prompted by a more protective law enacted by the 2008 Washington State Legislature to align with stricter air quality health standards adopted in late 2006 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
These burn ban requirements are expected to provide improved effectiveness in clearing our air and protecting public health during wintertime air stagnations. Puget Sound residents who burn wood in their homes will be more affected by the new law and expected to periodically stop using all wood- and pellet-burning devices.
Burn ban program highlights
- Burn bans will be called at lower pollution levels than in the past.
- We will call Stage 1 Burn Bans on the basis of weather conditions and rising pollution levels.
- We will call Stage 2 burn bans when fine particle pollution levels reach a trigger value set by state law.
- These new protocols will likely result in the agency calling Stage 2 burn bans. In January 2009, the agency called its first Stage 2 burn ban since 1991.
What this means for area residents
- During a Stage 1 burn ban, no burning is allowed in wood-burning fireplaces, uncertified wood stoves or fireplace inserts unless this is your only adequate source of heat.
- During a Stage 2 burn ban, no burning is allowed in ANY wood-burning fireplaces, wood stoves or fireplace inserts (certified or uncertified) or pellet stoves, unless this is your only adequate source of heat.
- During both a Stage 1 and Stage 2 burn ban, all outdoor burning is prohibited, even in areas where outdoor burning is not permanently banned.
- If agency inspectors observe a burn ban violation, they will issue a Notice of Violation to the property owner and recommend a $1,000 penalty.
When and why we call a burn ban
- In September 2006, EPA tightened the 24-hour health standard for fine particle pollution, also known as PM2.5, from 65 to 35 micrograms per cubic meter. During its 2008 session, the state legislature modified the air quality trigger for a Stage 1 burn ban and adopted an air quality trigger for a Stage 2 ban at a PM2.5 concentration that is even lower than the previous Stage 1 trigger.
- We will issue Stage 1 burn bans when weather conditions are predicted to create stagnant air and a build-up of pollution (exceeding a 24-hour average of 35 micrograms per cubic meter within 48 hours).
- In some cases when PM2.5 levels are rising rapidly, we may call a Stage 2 burn ban without first calling a Stage 1 burn ban.
- Forecast weather conditions will play a major role in determining when – or if – to issue a burn ban. For example, in certain circumstances when pollution levels have risen to the Stage 2 trigger, we may not issue a burn ban if we expect that weather conditions over the next 24 hours will clean out our area’s air pollution.
- The Clean Air Agency issues daily Air Quality forecasts year-round to inform the public of expected conditions and health impacts based on EPA’s Air Quality Index.
For more information
- SB 6753 - 2007-08: Regarding changes in calling burn bans for solid fuel burning devices
- The new law, RCW 70.94.473: Limitations on burning wood for heat – First and second stage burn bans
- Burn Ban details from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency
- Forecasts and current air quality conditions
- About Outdoor Burning regulations
- Historical record (1988-present) of Puget Sound Clean Air Agency burn bans
- Air Quality Basics: About fine particulate matter
- EPA: Particulate Matter (PM) Standards
- Wood Smoke and Your Health
- Health Effects of Wood Smoke
- Northwest Center for Particulate Air Pollution and Health
- Wildfire Smoke: A Guide for Public Health Officials