SECTION 502 – OUTDOOR BURNING
This section establishes a program to implement the limited burning policy authorized by sections of the Washington Clean Air Act (chapter 70.94 RCW as referenced in NWCAA 104.1) pertaining to outdoor burning.
(A) This section specifically applies to:
(1) Residential burning.
(2) Land clearing burning.
(3) Recreational fires.
(4) Indian ceremonial fires.
(5) Weed abatement fires.
(6) Firefighting instruction fires.
(7) Rare and endangered plant regeneration fires.
(8) Storm or flood debris burning.
(9) Tumbleweed burning.
(10) Other outdoor burning.
(B) This section does not apply to:
(1) Agricultural burning (which is governed by chapter 173-430 WAC as referenced in NWCAA 104.1);
(2) Any outdoor burning on lands within the exterior boundaries of Indian reservations (unless provided for by intergovernmental agreements); and
(3) Silvicultural burning (which is governed by chapter 332-24 WAC, the Washington state smoke management plan, and various laws including chapter 70.94 RCW as referenced in NWCAA 104.1).
Unless a different meaning is clearly required by context, words and phrases used in this section shall have the following meanings:
Fires regulated under chapter 173-430 WAC as referenced in NWCAA 104.1, including, but not limited to, any incidental agricultural burning or agricultural burning for pest or disease control.
AIR POLLUTION EPISODE
A period when a forecast, alert, warning, or emergency air pollution stage is declared, as stated in chapter 173-435 WAC as referenced in NWCAA 104.1.
All material manufactured for or resulting from the construction, renovation, or demolition of buildings, roads, and other man-made structures.
FIREFIGHTING INSTRUCTION FIRES
Fires for instruction in methods of firefighting, including, but not limited to, training to fight structural fires, aircraft crash rescue fires, and forest fires.
Bare, untreated wood used as fuel in a solid fuel burning device, Indian ceremonial fire, or recreational fire.
IMPAIRED AIR QUALITY
A first or second stage impaired air quality condition declared by Ecology or the NWCAA in accordance with WAC 173-433-140 as referenced in NWCAA 104.1.
INDIAN CEREMONIAL FIRE
Fires necessary for Native American ceremonies (i.e., conducted by and for Native Americans) if part of a religious ritual.
LAND CLEARING BURNING
Outdoor burning of trees, stumps, shrubbery or other natural vegetation from land clearing projects (i.e., projects that clear the land surface so it can be developed, used for a different purpose, or left unused).
Unprocessed plant material from herbs, shrubbery, and trees, including grass, weeds, leaves, clippings, prunings, brush, branches, roots, stumps, and trunk wood.
A clearly delineated geographic area designated by the Environmental Protection Agency at 40 CFR Part 81 as exceeding (or that contributes to ambient air quality in a nearby area that exceeds) a National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for a given criteria pollutant. An area is nonattainment only for the pollutants for which the area has been designated nonattainment.
Unincorporated areas within a county that are not designated as an urban growth area.
For purposes of outdoor burning, an emission of smoke or any other air contaminant from an outdoor fire that unreasonably interferes with the use and enjoyment of the property upon which it is deposited.
OTHER OUTDOOR BURNING
Outdoor burning other than residential burning, land clearing burning, storm or flood debris burning, tumbleweed burning, weed abatement fires, firefighting instruction fires, rare and endangered plant regeneration fire, Indian ceremonial fires, and recreational fires. It includes, but is not limited to, any outdoor burning necessary to protect public health and safety.
The combustion of any material in an open fire or in an outdoor container without providing for the control of combustion or the control of emissions from the combustion. Outdoor burning means all types of outdoor burning except agricultural burning, burning on lands within the exterior boundaries of Indian reservations (unless provided for by intergovernmental agreements), and silvicultural burning.
The agency responsible for issuing permits for a particular type of outdoor burning (including adopting a general permit) and/or enforcing all requirements of this section unless another agency agrees to be responsible for certain enforcement activities in accordance with WAC 173-425-060(1)(a) and (6) as referenced in NWCAA 104.1.
POLLUTANTS EMITTED BY OUTDOOR BURNING
Carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, lead, and various volatile organic compounds and toxic substances.
RARE AND ENDANGERED PLANT REGENERATION FIRES
Fires necessary to promote the regeneration of rare and endangered plants found within natural area preserves as identified in chapter 79.70 RCW.
A method for disposing of organic refuse (such as natural vegetation) that is available, reasonably economical, and less harmful to the environment than burning, including, but not limited to, waste reduction, recycling, energy recovery or incineration, and landfill disposal.
Cooking fires, campfires, and bonfires using charcoal or firewood that occur in designated areas or on private property for cooking, pleasure, or ceremonial purposes. Fires used for debris disposal purposes are not considered recreational fires.
The outdoor burning of leaves, clippings, prunings and other yard and gardening refuse originating on lands immediately adjacent and in close proximity to a human dwelling and burned on such lands by a responsible person.
Any of the following:
(1) Any person who has applied for and received a permit for outdoor burning, or
(2) Any person allowing, igniting or attending to an outdoor fire, or
(3) Any person who owns or controls property on which an outdoor fire occurs.
Fires relating to the following activities for the protection of life or property and/or the public health, safety, and welfare:
(1) Abating a forest fire hazard;
(2) Prevention of a forest fire hazard;
(3) Instruction of public officials in methods of forest firefighting;
(4) Any silvicultural operation to improve the forest lands of the state; and
(5) Silvicultural burning used to improve or maintain fire-dependent ecosystems for rare plants or animals within the state, federal, and private natural area preserves, natural resource conservation areas, parks, and other wildlife areas.
STORM OR FLOOD DEBRIS BURNING
Fires consisting of natural vegetation deposited on lands by storms or floods that have occurred in the previous two years and resulted in an emergency being declared or proclaimed in the area by the city, county, or state government and burned on such lands by a responsible person.
Outdoor burning to dispose of dry plants (typically Russian Thistle and Tumbleweed Mustard plants) that have been broken off and rolled about by the wind.
URBAN GROWTH AREA
Land, generally including and associated with an incorporated city, designated by a county for urban growth under RCW 36.70A.030.
WEED ABATEMENT FIRES
Outdoor burning to dispose of weeds that is not regulated under chapter 173-430 WAC as referenced in NWCAA 104.1, the Agricultural Burning rule.
502.4 PROHIBITIONS AND RESTRICTIONS APPLYING TO ALL OUTDOOR BURNING.
The following general requirements apply to all outdoor burning regulated by this section, including any outdoor burning allowed without a permit, unless a specific exception is stated in this section. A fire protection agency, county, or conservation district may enforce its own controls that are stricter than those set forth in this section.
(A) No person may cause or allow an outdoor fire in an area where the type of burning involved is prohibited under NWCAA 502.6, or where it requires a permit under NWCAA 502.5(B), unless a permit has been issued and is in effect.
(B) PROHIBITED MATERIALS.
It shall be unlawful for any person to cause or allow any outdoor fire containing garbage, dead animals, asphalt, petroleum products, paints, rubber products, plastics, paper (other than what is necessary to start a fire), cardboard, treated wood, construction/demolition debris, metal or any substance (other than natural vegetation) that normally releases toxic emissions, dense smoke, or obnoxious odors when burned except as follows:
(1) Aircraft crash rescue training fires approved and conducted in compliance with RCW 70.94.6528 as referenced in NWCAA 104.1 may contain uncontaminated petroleum products.
(2) Ecology or the NWCAA may allow the limited burning of prohibited materials for other firefighting instruction fires, including those that are exempt from permits under NWCAA 502.5(B)(6).
(3) Other outdoor burning necessary to protect public health and safety.
(C) HAULED MATERIAL.
(1) No outdoor fire may contain material (other than firewood) that has been hauled from an area where outdoor burning of the material is prohibited.
(2) Any outdoor burning of material hauled from areas where outdoor burning of the material is allowed requires an appropriate permit. Any property used for this purpose on an on-going basis must be:
(a) Limited to the types of burning listed in WAC 173-351-200(5)(b) as referenced in NWCAA 104.1 (criteria for municipal solid waste landfills), and
(b) Approved in accordance with other laws, including chapter 173-304 WAC as referenced in NWCAA 104.1 (minimum functional standards for solid waste handling) and chapter 173-400 WAC as referenced in NWCAA 104.1 (general regulations for air pollution sources).
(D) CURTAILMENTS. During episodes or periods of impaired air quality, a responsible person for the fire must contact the permitting agency and/or any other designated source for information on the burning conditions for each day.
(1) No outdoor fire shall be ignited in a geographical area where:
(a) Ecology has declared an air pollution episode;
(b) Ecology or the NWCAA has declared an impaired air quality condition for the county; or
(c) The appropriate fire protection authority has declared a fire danger burn ban, unless the NWCAA grants an exception.
(2) A responsible person for an outdoor fire shall extinguish the fire when an air pollution episode, an impaired air quality condition, or fire danger burn ban that applies to the burning is declared.
(a) Smoke visible from all types of outdoor burning, except land clearing burning, after a time period of three hours has elapsed from the time an air pollution episode, impaired air quality condition, or fire danger burn ban is declared shall constitute prima facie evidence of unlawful outdoor burning.
(b) Smoke visible from land clearing burning after a time period of eight hours has elapsed from the time an air pollution episode, impaired air quality condition, or fire danger burn ban is declared shall constitute prima facie evidence of unlawful outdoor burning.
(E) UNLAWFUL OUTDOOR BURNING/NUISANCE. It is unlawful for any person to cause or allow outdoor burning that causes an emission of smoke or any other air contaminant that is detrimental to the health, safety, or welfare of any person, that causes damage to property or business, or that causes a nuisance.
(F) BURNING IN OUTDOOR CONTAINERS. Outdoor containers (such as burn barrels and other wood waste incinerators not regulated under NWCAA Section 458, used for outdoor burning, must be constructed of concrete or masonry with a completely enclosed combustion chamber and equipped with a permanently attached spark arrester constructed of iron, heavy wire mesh, or other noncombustible material with openings not larger than 0.5 inch, and they may only be used in compliance with this section.
(G) OTHER GENERAL REQUIREMENTS.
(1) A person capable of extinguishing the fire must attend it at all times and the fire must be extinguished before leaving it.
(2) No fires are to be within 50 feet of structures.
(3) Permission from a landowner or owner’s designated representative must be obtained before starting an outdoor fire.
502.5 OUTDOOR BURNING PERMIT PROGRAM/REQUIREMENTS
(A) PERMIT PROGRAM.
(1) The NWCAA may consult with fire protection authorities, conservation districts, or counties to determine if any of these agencies are capable and willing to serve as the permitting agency and/or enforcing agency for particular types of burning.
(2) The NWCAA may enter into agreements with any capable agencies to identify the permitting agencies and enforcing agencies for each type of burning and determine the type of permit appropriate for each where a permit is required.
(3) Permitting agencies may use a verbal, electronic, written, or general permit established by rule for any type of outdoor burning that requires a permit.
(4) A written permit should be used, where feasible, for land clearing burning, storm or flood debris burning in areas where residential burning and land clearing burning are prohibited under NWCAA 502.6(A), (B), or (C), and other outdoor burning (except any other outdoor burning necessary to protect public health and safety).
(5) Any person having an outstanding penalty obligation to the NWCAA as a result of a violation of Section 502, except under appeal to the Pollution Control Hearings Board (PCHB) or other judicial body, shall be denied additional outdoor burning permits until the remaining balance is paid.
(B) TYPES OF BURNING THAT REQUIRE A PERMIT. Except as otherwise stated, a permit is required for the following types of outdoor burning:
(1) Residential burning (except in nonurban areas of any county with an unincorporated population of less than 50,000);
(2) Land clearing burning;
(3) Storm or flood debris burning;
(4) Tumbleweed burning (except in counties with a population of less than 250,000;
(5) Weed abatement fires;
(6) Firefighting instruction fires for training to fight structural fires in urban growth areas and cities with a population over 10,000, and all other firefighting instruction fires, except:
(a) Firefighting instruction fires for training to fight structural fires as provided in RCW 52.12.150;
(b) Aircraft crash rescue fires as provided in RCW 70.94.650(5) as referenced in NWCAA 104.1; and
(c) Forest fires;
(7) Rare and endangered plant regeneration fires;
(8) Indian ceremonial fires (except on lands within the exterior boundaries of Indian reservations unless provided for by intergovernmental agreement);
(9) Recreational fires with a total fuel area greater than three feet in diameter and/or two feet in height (except in the nonurban areas of counties with an unincorporated population of less than 50,000); and
(10) Other outdoor burning if specifically authorized by the NWCAA.
The fee for outdoor burning permits shall be as established in NWCAA 324.10. The amount of the fee will not exceed the level necessary to recover the costs of administering and enforcing a permit program.
(D) REQUIREMENTS FOR RESIDENTIAL BURNING.
The following conditions apply to all residential burning allowed without a permit under NWCAA 502.5(B)(1) or allowed under a general, verbal, written, or electronic permit. Persons unable to meet these requirements and the requirements in NWCAA 502.4 must apply for and receive a written permit before burning. Failure to comply with all applicable requirements voids any applicable permit.
(1) A responsible person for the fire must contact the permitting agency and/or any other designated source for information on the burning conditions of each day.
(2) A fire may not be ignited, and must be extinguished, if an air pollution episode, impaired air quality condition, or fire danger burn ban that applies to the burning, is declared for the area.
(3) The fire must not include prohibited materials as listed in NWCAA 502.4(B).
(4) The fire must not include materials hauled from another property.
(5) If any emission from the fire is detrimental to the health, safety, or welfare of any person, if it causes damage to property or business, or if it causes a nuisance, the fire must be extinguished immediately.
(6) A person capable of extinguishing the fire must attend it at all times and the fire must be extinguished before leaving it.
(7) No fires are to be within 50 feet of structures.
(8) Permission from a landowner, or owner’s designated representative, must be obtained before starting an outdoor fire.
(9) Any burn pile must not be larger than four feet in diameter and three feet high.
(10) Only one pile at a time may be burned, and each pile must be extinguished before lighting another.
(11) If an outdoor container is used for burning, it must be constructed of concrete or masonry with a completely enclosed combustion chamber and equipped with a permanently attached spark arrester constructed of iron, heavy wire mesh, or other noncombustible material with openings not larger than 0.5 inch.
(12) No fire is allowed within 500 feet of forest slash.
(E) FIELD RESPONSE AND ENFORCEMENT
(1) Any agency that issues permits, or adopts a general permit for any type of burning in an area, is responsible for field response to outdoor burning complaints and enforcement of all permit conditions and requirements unless another agency has agreed to be responsible.
(2) Except for enforcing Section 502.4(E)(1)(d), the NWCAA will be responsible for enforcing any requirements that apply to burning that are prohibited or exempt from permits in areas of its jurisdiction, unless another agency agrees to be responsible.
(3) Permitting agencies and enforcing agencies may require that corrective action be taken, and may assess penalties to the extent allowed if they discover noncompliance.
502.6 AREAS AND TYPES OF PROHIBITED OUTDOOR BURNING.
(A) NONATTAINMENT AREAS.
Residential burning and land clearing burning shall not occur in any areas that exceed federal or state ambient air quality standards for pollutants emitted by outdoor burning. These areas are limited to all nonattainment areas and former nonattainment areas for carbon monoxide, particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and lead.
(B) URBAN GROWTH AREAS.
No person shall cause or allow residential burning and land clearing burning in any urban growth areas.
(C) CITIES OVER 10,000 POPULATION.
Residential burning and land clearing burning shall not occur in any cities having a population greater than 10,000 people. Cities having this population must be identified by using the most current population estimates available for each city.
(D) HIGH DENSITY AREAS.
Land clearing burning shall not occur in any area having a general population density of 1,000 or more persons per square mile. All areas having this density must be identified by using the most current population data available for each census block group and dividing by the land area of the block group in square miles.
(E) AREAS WITH A REASONABLE ALTERNATIVE TO BURNING.
Residential burning, land clearing burning, storm or flood debris burning, tumbleweed burning, weed abatement fires and other outdoor burning of organic refuse shall not occur in any area, including the areas identified in subsections 502.6(A) through 502.6(D), when a reasonable alternative for that type of burning is found to exist in the area for that type of burning. A reasonable alternative for a particular type of burning exists when the alternative is available and reasonably economical and less harmful to the environment as defined in WAC 173-425-040(5) as referenced in NWCAA 104.1.
(F) No person shall cause or allow outdoor burning at permanently-located business establishments excluding land clearing operations.
PASSED: January 8, 1969
AMENDED: June 14, 2001, July 10, 2003, July 14, 2005, November 8, 2007, September 11, 2014