Burn Ban now at Stage 2 as air quality worsens


Despite gorgeous sunshine during the day and glistening moonlight at night, the lack of winds to blow our dirty air away is causing our ground-level atmosphere to reach higher, and more toxic, concentrations of dirt and pollution. 

 The resulting health issues that come from breathing polluted air, such as increased episodes of asthma and cardiac problems, have compelled the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency to raise the current burn ban to a Stage 2 alert in Pierce County, effective immediately. 

A Stage I Burn Ban had been in place since last week, which had allowed wood fires in certified wood stoves.

Now, however, the Stage 2 burn ban forbids the use of any kind of wood stove or fireplace – even if certified – unless the stove is the only source of “significant” heat in the residence.

Smoke from wood stoves is the leading source of contamination in our air, followed by vehicle exhaust – especially diesel, which emits 80% of all carcinogens found in the atmosphere.

In addition, all forms of outdoor burning are forbidden for the duration of the burn ban.  This includes recreational uses, such as campfires, as well as permitted slash burns.

 Mountain News readers have been sharing their personal stories of struggling with dirty air, and asthma sufferers are especially impacted.

 Below is the press release that Pierce County issued today:

 Burn ban elevated to Stage 2

 [Forwarded in the community interest by the Pierce County Department of Communications]

 The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency is elevating Pierce and Snohomish Counties to a Stage 2 burn ban to protect residents from worsening air quality, effective at 11 a.m. today, Dec. 6, 2011.  

These bans are in effect until further notice.

The high-pressure weather system centered offshore means continued calm winds and stagnant air.  Air quality reached levels “unhealthy for sensitive groups” last night in both Pierce and Snohomish Counties.  Clean Air Agency forecasters do not expect adequate ventilation to reduce pollution over the next 24-hours.  A very weak weather system is expected Wednesday evening, which may temporarily break up some of the pollution, but the air stagnation is expected to continue into the weekend.

 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. Residents should rely instead on their home’s other, cleaner source of heat (such as their furnace or electric baseboard heaters) for a few days until air quality improves, the public health risk diminishes and the ban is cancelled. The only exception is if a wood stove is a home’s 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 outdoor fireplaces known as chimineas.
  • Burn ban violations are subject to a $1,000 penalty.

 It is OK to use natural gas and propane stoves or inserts during a Stage 2 burn ban.

 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).

 This is the first air quality burn ban of the season for the Puget Sound region.  The purpose of a burn ban is to reduce the amount of pollution that is creating unhealthy air. Puget Sound Clean Air Agency staff will continue to monitor the situation.

 Click on the following links for more information on:


December 6, 2011

News Release



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