Wildfires resulting from dry conditions last September devastated some of the state. These fires forced many residents in Eastern Washington to evacuate their homes while taking precautions against the poor air quality.
Concerns were raised by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources in October due to the resulting polluted air front moving toward the Cascades into King, Snohomish and Pierce counties.
The Pierce County Clean Air Agency announced a Stage 1 burn ban on Nov. 25 in Pierce County. This was due to low winds that brought in fog and a build-up of air pollution. During a Stage 1 burn ban, burning in not allowed in uncertified wood stoves and fireplaces; nothing that exceeds a 20-minute start-up time. Pellet, gas and EPA-certified wood stoves still are allowed during this period.
Also, while a Stage 1 burn ban is in effect, residents are advised to spend limited time outside, which includes exercising and other outdoor activities. On Jan 13, the burn ban was raised to Stage 2 in Pierce County, which meant any use of fireplaces, pellet and wood stoves were off limits. Only propane and natural gas fireplaces can be used.
All outdoor burning is illegal during Stage 1 and 2 burn bans even in legally certified areas such as campgrounds or park grilling areas. Violators of Stage 1 or Stage 2 burn bans are subject to face up to a $1,000 fine each.
Burn bans protect those who are at risk of suffering from any kind of respiratory problems. This includes asthma patients, children and adults older than 65 years old.
A study by the Washington Department of Ecology three years ago found that fine particles due to poor air quality causes about 1,100 deaths and $190 million in healthcare costs each year.
On Jan. 22, the Pierce County Clean Air Agency lifted the Stage 2 burn ban in Pierce County.
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