As temperatures drop and Washington residents fire up wood-burning devices for heating, wood smoke in the air increases and creates one of the most serious air pollution problems in the state.
To avoid pollution and potential burn bans, the state Department of Ecology urges people to limit wood burning as much as possible. If wood is the only heat option, Ecology urges use of dry, seasoned wood to reduce smoke.
When smoke combines with diesel emissions and other particulates, air quality can quickly degrade, Ecology said in a press release.
When pollution reaches unsafe levels, Ecology and local clean air agencies can call burn bans to protect people’s health.
The burn bans prohibit all outdoor burning, including agricultural and forest burning. Indoor heating has two burn ban stages.
During stage one bans, which are based on weather conditions and increasing pollution levels, no burning is allowed in fireplaces, uncertified wood stoves or uncertified fireplace inserts, unless it is the only adequate heat source of the residence.
During stage two burn bans, which are issued when pollution levels exceed state limits and are not expected to drop for at least a day, burning is prohibited in any certified or uncertified wood-burning device unless it is the only adequate heat source.
Katie Skipper, communications director for the Northwest Clean Air Agency, asks residents to always burn dry wood and regularly monitor fireplaces for smoke output. If you burn, make the fire burn hot and clean, Skipper said. And take note that it’s illegal to burn garbage.