The first burn ban of the season is in place for Snohomish County. And there’s a new way people in the Puget Sound area can get information on when wood-burning fires are allowed.
The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency issued a Stage 1 burn ban Friday evening. It will continue until air quality improves.
The ban was issued due to rising air pollution levels. The recent cold weather, clear skies and low wind caused smoke from wood fires to remain in the air, said Joanne Todd, a spokeswoman for the agency.
“That brings pollution levels to unhealthy levels,” she said.
The agency will continue to monitor air quality. Burn bans typically last one to 10 days, Todd said.
There’s a new smartphone app called “Burn Ban 411” that people can download for free. It gives up-to-date information on burn bans. People can also check the burn ban status online at tinyurl.com/poaqwjz or call the hotline at 800-552-3565.
“Keep an eye open and check before you burn,” Todd said.
During a Stage 1 ban, no burning is allowed in wood-burning fireplaces, uncertified wood stoves or fireplace inserts. Outdoor fires, including those at campsites, are also prohibited.
“Those put out a phenomenal amount of pollution,” Todd said.
Instead, people should rely on cleaner heating sources, such as furnaces or baseboard heaters, until air quality improves. The only exception to the ban is if a homeowner has been approved by the agency to burn because there is no other adequate source of heat in the house. The use of natural gas and propane is allowed under the ban.
The burn ban was put in place to reduce the amount of pollution that is creating unhealthy air, often due to excessive wood smoke. It contains toxins and particles that can be harmful when people breathe them in, Todd said.
“They’re similar to the toxins in cigarette smoke,” she said. “There’s a lot of things that are natural that aren’t really good for you.”
The state Department of Health recommends that people who are sensitive to air pollution limit the time they spend outdoors, particularly when exercising. Air pollution can trigger difficulty breathing and asthma attacks or worsen lung and heart problems. It is especially harmful to people with those problems or diabetes. It can also affect children and adults who are older than 65.