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Stage 1 burn ban called for Pierce and Snohomish Counties

The use of fireplaces and uncertified wood stoves is prohibited until air quality improves.

[December 30, 2010] – Due to forecasted stagnant weather conditions and rising air pollution levels, the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency is issuing a Stage 1 burn ban for Pierce and Snohomish Counties, effective at 5:00 p.m. today, December 30, 2010.  This ban is in effect until further notice.

“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,” says Craig Kenworthy, executive director of the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.

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.

A high pressure system will result in 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.

During a Stage 1 burn ban:

  • No burning is allowed in fireplaces or uncertified wood stoves or inserts, unless this is your only adequate source of heat. 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.
  • 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 at

This is the first 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. The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency wants to remind people who burn wood, whether occasionally or often, that it is important to always check burn ban status before lighting a fire and to obey burn bans.

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