Chestnuts roasting on an open fire? Not this year, thanks to burn ban

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Forget about a fire in the fireplace this Christmas. The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency is issuing a Stage 1 burn ban for Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties, starting at 4 p.m. Wednesday and in effect until further notice.

A strong high pressure system will dominate the Puget Sound area at least through Saturday. This weather pattern will create stagnant conditions over many parts of Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties, resulting in rapidly increasing pollution levels. Pollution levels are expected to begin rising this evening, especially in communities where residential heating with wood is common. In King County, easterly winds are predicted to provide sufficient mixing and help keep pollution levels within acceptable federal standards. The Agency will closely monitor these forecasts and add King County if warranted.

No relief in this stagnant pattern is expected before Sunday, Dec. 27, the agency said.

A Stage 2 ban may be needed if pollution levels and trends do not improve after issuance of the Stage 1 burn ban.

You can check conditions and forecasts at http://www.pscleanair.org/airq/aqi.aspx

During a Stage 1 burn ban:

  • No burning is allowed in fireplaces or uncertified wood stoves, unless this is your only adequate source of heat. Residents should rely instead on their home’s other, cleaner source of heat (such as their furnace or electric baseboard heaters) for a few days until air quality improves, the public health risk diminishes and the ban is cancelled.
  • No visible smoke is allowed from any wood stove or fireplace, certified or not, beyond a 20-minute start-up period.
  • No outdoor fires are allowed. This includes recreational fires such as bonfires, campfires and the use of fire pits and chimineas.
  • Burn ban violations are subject to a $1,000 penalty.

It is OK to use natural gas, propane and pellet stoves or inserts during a Stage 1 burn ban.

The Washington State Department of Health recommends that people who are sensitive to air pollution limit time spent outdoors. Air pollution can trigger asthma attacks, cause difficulty breathing, and make lung and heart problems worse. Air pollution is especially harmful to children, people with heart and lung problems, and adults over age 65.

For additional information and answers to frequently asked questions, visit: http://www.pscleanair.org/airq/burnban/faqs.aspx

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