Hold the yule logs.
A forecast for stagnant weather conditions and rising air pollution levels has led the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency to issue a Stage 1 burn ban for Pierce and Snohomish Counties, effective at 5:00 p.m. today.
The ban probably will stay in effect into the new year.
A high pressure system will cause the stagnant conditions over the Puget Sound region. With little wind and poor ventilation, pollution levels are expected to rise through the weekend, especially in Pierce and Snohomish County communities where residential wood burning is common. No relief in this stagnant pattern is expected until early next week.
“Somewhere out there is an asthmatic child or someone with lung or heart disease who wants to get out and enjoy this holiday weekend just like the rest of us. We are calling this burn ban to protect their health and the health of everyone in the community, because everyone has the right to breathe clean air,” Craig Kenworthy, executive director of the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, said in announcing the ban.
The Washington State Department of Health recommends that people who are sensitive to air pollution limit time spent outdoors. Air pollution can trigger asthma attacks, cause difficulty breathing, and make lung and heart problems worse. Air pollution is especially harmful to children, people with heart and lung problems, and adults over age 65.
During a Stage 1 burn ban:
- No burning is allowed in fireplaces or uncertified wood stoves or inserts, unless this is the only adequate source of heat.
- No visible smoke is allowed from any wood stove or fireplace, certified or not, beyond a 20-minute start-up period – and even if it is the only adequate source of heat.
- No outdoor fires are allowed. This includes recreational fires such as bonfires, campfires and the use of fire pits and chimineas.
- Burn ban violations are subject to a $1,000 penalty.
It is OK to use natural gas, propane, pellet and EPA certified wood stoves or inserts during a Stage 1 burn ban.
Clean Air Agency meteorologists anticipate air quality may further deteriorate over the next several days. Should that occur, the ban could be elevated to Stage 2 as early as Friday, December 31, and may be expanded to King and/or Kitsap Counties, if necessary.
Puget Sound Clean Air Agency staff will continue to monitor the situation. You can check conditions and forecasts here.
This is the first burn ban of the season for the Puget Sound region.
If you live in certain areas of Tacoma and unincorporated Pierce County, this is a great time to take advantage of the Wood Smoke Reduction Program which offers $5,500 – $8,000 to help people replace their old, polluting wood stove by upgrading to energy-efficient heating devices and weatherizing their homes.
The program is currently limited to residents who live in seven ZIP codes in part of Tacoma and surrounding unincorporated Pierce County communities. These are 98404, 98408, 98409, 98444, 98445, 98446 and 98373 outside the City of Puyallup. Other restrictions apply.
For eligibility requirements and details on how to participate, visit here.
These seven ZIP codes are most impacted by the elevated pollution levels measured at the South L Street air-quality monitor in Tacoma. Themonitor has measured 24-hour pollution levels in violation of federal air quality standards for fine particulate matter.
As a result, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has designated portions of Tacoma and Pierce County as a “nonattainment” area for fine particle pollution, which means that pollution levels pose a health concern and exceed national air quality standards.