The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency has issued a Stage 1 burn ban for Pierce County, which will remain in effect until further notice. The purpose of a burn ban is to reduce the amount of pollution that is creating unhealthy air, usually due to excessive wood smoke.

Agency forecasters expect the current high-pressure weather system to continue through Sunday night and with it the cold and still weather conditions we've been seeing. That --coupled with weather inversions in the evening-- will likely result in air pollution becoming trapped near ground level.

Pierce County in particular could see levels of air pollution reach the UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS level, especially in areas where wood burning is common. Snohomish, King, and Kitsap Counties should have some light winds, and should have lower pollution levels, staying at the MODERATE air quality level.

Wood burning during a ban may result in a fine, with fines in the past reaching $1,000. Increased enforcement and night patrols will increase the likelihood of violators receiving substantial fines this season.

During a Stage 1 burn ban:

  • No burning is allowed in fireplaces or uncertified wood 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.
  • 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

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).

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