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Burn smart, burn clean

Seth Preston, Oct. 19, 2016

Fall weather has settled in, and many area residents are turning to wood burning to heat their homes from now until warmer springtime temperatures arrive.

Last weekend’s windstorms scoured local skies clean of potentially harmful wood smoke. But in the weeks ahead you can expect colder, calmer conditions to trap fine particles in smoke close to the ground where people can breathe them.

You can breathe those tiny particles deep into your lungs. They can hurt your lungs and your heart. They can especially hurt kids and sick people, like those who already have lung and heart problems.

Burn the right way

You can help protect the air you breathe by not burning wood, though that can be an easy, cheap way to heat your home. But burning wood the right way isn’t as simple as it may seem.

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you must burn wood for heat:

  • Burning wet wood is no good. It’s harder to burn, it causes more smoke, and it costs more because you need more wood to produce heat.
  • Remember that it is always illegal to emit excess chimney smoke and to smoke out your neighbors. And it’s also illegal to burn trash.
  • Trying to save a few bucks by burning illegally isn’t worth it – illegal burning can cost you up to $1,500 for a repeat violation.

Learn more online

Check the Northwest Clean Air Agency website for more information on heating with wood, including helpful videos and clean-burning tips.

Other resources

The Northwest Clean Air Agency is responsible for enforcing federal, state and local air quality regulations in Island, Skagit, and Whatcom counties. In addition to permitting and regulating industrial sources of air pollution, the agency provides services and information related to asbestos, indoor air quality, outdoor burning, woodstoves and fireplaces. More information about the agency is available at