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It’s ok to burn, but please keep it clean

Jan. 4, 2016


Weather service air stagnation advisory canceled.

The National Weather Service canceled its recent air stagnation advisory over the weekend, and air quality has improved, making it ok to burn again. But if you choose to burn, please keep it as clean as possible.

Over the weekend, Columbia Valley saw periods of unhealthy air, Bellingham’s air was unhealthy for sensitive groups at times, and Mount Vernon experienced moderate air conditions. Air quality remained good in other parts of Island, Skagit and Whatcom counties.

The National Weather Service forecast and our air quality models show conditions have improved and air quality is expected to return to “good” throughout most of the jurisdiction.

But keep in mind that even if the air quality is good overall, a poorly managed fire can affect your neighbors. If you choose to burn, check the smoke from your chimney frequently to make sure little to no smoke is visible.

Tips for reducing smoke from wood fires

We encourage people who heat with wood to convert to cleaner heat sources. If you must use wood for heat, you can take steps to reduce smoke and the health risks associated with smoke particles indoors and outdoors. These steps also will make firewood last longer and reduce the risk of chimney fires:

  • Check to see if smoke is visible from your chimney. A smoky chimney is an indicator that the fireplace or wood stove is not being operated correctly. State law limits the density of chimney smoke to just a wisp.
  • Only use dry wood.
  • Burn a small, hot fire.
  • Fully extinguish a smoldering fire.
  • Consider using manufactured logs. They are made from recycled wood products and burn cleaner than cut wood, especially wet, unseasoned wood.
  • Give the fire lots of air. Keep the damper wide open.

We have the authority enforce air quality laws and regulations, which include limits on how much smoke comes out of your chimney. We also have the authority to issue and enforce burn bans.

Health risks from smoke

Smoke from any fire contains tiny particles that can be inhaled deeply into the lungs. Particle pollution is linked to a number of health problems, including coughing, wheezing, reduced lung function, asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes. It also is linked to early death.

Fine particles are one of the pollutants we measure with air quality monitors at all seven of our monitoring locations in Island, Skagit and Whatcom counties. The monitors measure particles that are 2 ½ microns or less in diameter. There are about 25,000 microns in an inch. The larger particles in the PM2.5 size range would be about thirty times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.

The national health-based standards are no more than an average of 35 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic meter of air in 24 hours and no more than an average of 12 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic meter of air in a year.

The Washington Department of Ecology uses six categories to describe air quality in the state: Good, moderate, unhealthy for sensitive groups, unhealthy, very unhealthy and hazardous.

Check air quality often by looking at the online gauge for the monitor nearest you and take appropriate precautions.



Katie Skipper, Communications Director, office: 360-428-1617 ext. 235, mobile: 360-319-0739, [email protected]                    

Mark Buford, Deputy Director, 360-428-1617

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