Declining air-quality conditions have prompted the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency to issue a burn ban for King, Pierce and Snohomish counties until further notice.
Wood-burning won’t be allowed in fireplaces, stoves or outdoors until the Stage 2 burn ban is lifted.
As sunny and clear as the skies have looked for the past few days, wood-burning fires being used to fight freezing temperatures have dirtied the air with fine particle pollution, according to the agency. Recent studies have tied wood-smoke exposure to health effects such as aggravated asthma, increased heart attacks, acute bronchitis, and chronic lung disease.
The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency is especially concerned with the air quality in the Tacoma-Pierce County Smoke Reduction Zone, where high levels of wood smoke pollution currently violate the federal Clean Air Act. Agency officials will be patrolling that area more heavily and issuing citations, said agency spokeswoman Melissa Paulson.
The agency does make exceptions for households that truly don’t have better sources of heat, though, she said. To help low-income residents phase out wood-burning sources of heat, the agency hosts a buy-back program and replacement-stove drawings. Some low-income residents may also be eligible for a free heating replacement without entering the drawing.
“We’re not trying to put anyone out in the cold here,” Paulson said. “The point of this is really not to collect revenue; it’s to have a conversation about changing behavior.”
Updated air quality information and burn ban updates are available through the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency website or 800-552-3565.