First Burn Ban of season hits south Pierce County

by Bruce A. Smith
The first burn ban of the 2015 wood stove season is about to descend upon south Pierce County. For the first time, the Puget Sound Air Quality Agency is issuing a burn “warning,” as a prelude to a full burn ban, which is expected to be declared during Thanksgiving Day. In addition, they are applying the anticipated prohibition on the “Greater Perce County area,” which is a new designation. In the past, the ban was given simply to “Pierce County.”
Either way, this includes Graham and Eatonville. The primary culprit are wood-burning stoves, and a full burn ban will limit their use. A Stage One ban disallows the use of fireplaces, uncertified woods stoves, and all outdoor burning, while a Stage Two forbids all types of wood stoves, except for those residents who have no other way to heat their homes.

Wood smoke is a serious health and financial issue for Pierce County, as this area has some of the most polluted air in the nation during the weather inversions caused by stagnant air and high-pressure systems, in which we are being enveloped currently. The Washington State Department of Ecology has estimated that 140 people die annually to chronic exposure to wood smoke, and industrial development in the Tacoma metro area is blocked due to our region’s inability to comply with national air quality standards.
Worsening the air conditions is the heavy use the use of diesel trucks and pick-ups throughout the county. Diesel exhaust and wood smoke are the Top Two pollutants in Pierce County and throughout the Puget Sound region. In fact, the issue has become so problematic that workers who are exposed to chronic diesel fumes, such as firefighters, qualify for cancer treatments under Labor and Industry regulations.
In addition, Harborview Hospital in Seattle has built a special cardiac unit for patients experiencing chronic exposure to diesel fumes.
Also, wood smoke and diesel exhausts are considered to be a significant cause in the rise of Idiopathic Chemical Sensitivity Syndrome, a condition also known as “Industrial Asthma.”
The following is an announcement from the Puget Sound Air Quality Agency describing the burn bans and warnings for our area.

 Burn Ban Potential for Greater Pierce County 

Due to stagnant weather conditions and rising air pollution in Pierce County, the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency is issuing a burn ban warning for the Greater Pierce County area.
“As high pressure builds over Puget Sound this week and the weather becomes calmer, we are likely to call a burn ban in Pierce County tomorrow or Friday,” according to Erik Saganić, agency forecaster.
We have identified the “Pierce Peninsula” and “South Pierce” burn ban zones as areas that may have levels of pollution different than the rest of the county. The “Greater Pierce County” zone experiences bans more often than the rest of our region.
Check the map to see if you live in the Greater Pierce County burn ban area.
To sign up for text alerts for these areas, text:
  • PIERCEBURN to 313131 for Pierce County bans as a whole
  • PENINSULA to 313131 for the Gig Harbor/west Pierce County area only
  • SOUTHPIERCE to 313131 for the South Pierce area only
For up-to-date burn ban conditions, visit where you can view the current burn ban status and download our mobile app.
Use of fireplaces and uncertified wood stoves and inserts prohibited. Pellet stoves, EPA certified wood stoves and inserts are allowed. Outdoor burning prohibited. All wood burning prohibited, including pellet stoves. Outdoor burning prohibited.
  • Fireplaces
  • Uncertified Wood Stoves
  • Uncertified Wood Inserts
  • Outdoor Burning
  • Certified Wood Stoves
  • Certified Wood Inserts
  • Pellet Stoves & Inserts
The Washington State Department of Health recommends that people who are sensitive to air pollution limit their 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).
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.

For more information:

  • Visit the “Frequently Asked Questions” tab on the Burn Ban Status page
  • How can one tell if their wood stove is certified, and OK to use during a Stage 1 burn ban?  Age matters – if the stove is over 20 years old, it is likely uncertified and prohibited for use during a burn ban.  Uncertified wood stoves are no longer legal to sell or purchase in the State of Washington due to the significant pollution they generate.  A certified stove will have an EPA label on the back.
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The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency is an air quality management agency serving King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties. Created as a result of the 1967 Washington Clean Air Act, the agency protects public health by adopting and enforcing air quality regulations, educating individuals and businesses about clean-air choices, and sponsoring voluntary initiatives to improve air quality.

The Agency fully complies with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and does not discriminate based on race, color, sex, or national origin in its programs and activities.  In addition, the Agency also assures non-discrimination on the basis of creed, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, disability, marital or veteran status.  For more information, or to submit a title VI Complaint, go to: or call (206) 343-8800.
This entry was posted in Eatonville News, Environment, Frederickson, Graham News, Health, Kapowsin, Nature, Politics, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

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