About Burn Bans

Typically weather conditions allow for good air quality in our region, but during colder months, weather inversions and calm winds are more common. Without strong winds, the air becomes stagnant and weather inversions trap the air closer to the ground. These conditions combined with an increase in wood burning make air quality burn bans necessary.

Background

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency has been issuing wintertime air quality burn bans during episodes of poor air quality since the late 1980s. During these burn bans, the Clean Air Agency has prohibited the use of primarily uncertified wood stoves and fireplaces in order to reduce pollution and lessen the impact on public health

Our burn ban program has evolved over the years to reflect updates in health information and mandated air quality standards.

More restrictive burn ban requirements began in the 2008-2009 heating season, prompted by a more protective law enacted by the 2008 Washington State Legislature to align with stricter air quality health standards adopted in late 2006 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Burn Ban Stages

There are two types (stages) of air quality burn bans that can be issued. Stage 1 burn bans are typically based on weather conditions and rising pollution levels. Stage 2 burn bans are called when fine particle pollution levels reach a trigger value set by state law.

Learn the difference between the air quality burn ban stages below.

Stage 1 Burn Ban

No burning in uncertified wood stoves or inserts, or fireplaces. No outdoor burning. EPA certified devices and pellet stoves are allowed.

Not Allowed:

  • Fireplaces
  • Outdoor Burning
  • Uncertified Wood Inserts
  • Uncertified Wood Stoves

Allowed:

  • EPA Certified Wood Inserts
  • EPA Certified Wood Stoves
  • Pellet Stoves and Inserts

Stage 2 Burn Ban

  • No wood burning allowed, including pellet stoves and EPA certified devices.
  • No outdoor burning.

When & Why We Call a Burn Ban

  • In September 2006, EPA tightened the 24-hour health standard for fine particle pollution, also known as PM2.5, from 65 to 35 micrograms per cubic meter. During its 2008 session, the state legislature modified the air quality trigger for a Stage 1 burn ban and adopted an air quality trigger for a Stage 2 ban at a PM2.5 concentration that is even lower than the previous Stage 1 trigger.
  • We will issue Stage 1 burn bans when weather conditions are predicted to create stagnant air and a build-up of pollution that:
    • Exceeds a 24-hour average of 35 micrograms per cubic meter within 48 hours (King and Kitsap counties).
    • Exceeds a 24-hour average of 30 micrograms per cubic meter within 48 hours (Pierce and Snohomish counties).
  • In some cases when PM2.5 levels are rising rapidly, we may call a Stage 2 burn ban without first calling a Stage 1 burn ban.
  • Forecast weather conditions will play a major role in determining when – or if – to issue a burn ban. For example, in certain circumstances when pollution levels have risen to the Stage 2 trigger, we may not issue a burn ban if we expect that weather conditions over the next 24 hours will clean out our area’s air pollution.
  • The Clean Air Agency issues daily Air Quality forecasts year-round to inform the public of expected conditions and health impacts based on EPA’s Air Quality Index.