About Air Quality Burn Bans

The smoke from burning wood and wood-based products contains fine particles (soot) and a toxic mix of other carcinogens. This pollution is harmful to your health, particularly for sensitive groups — infants, children, and people over 65, or those that are pregnant, have heart or lung diseases (such as asthma or COPD), respiratory infections, diabetes, stroke survivors, and those suffering from COVID-19. During stagnant weather conditions, concentrations of wood smoke can reach harmful levels.

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 to decrease wood smoke emissions and to protect air quality in our neighborhoods and the health of those living there.

An air quality burn ban is a mandatory, yet temporary, order that restricts the use of wood stoves and fireplaces, as well as outdoor burning, when air quality is degraded, and human health may be impacted. Air quality burn bans typically occur during fall and winter months and usually last a few days, but they may last for up to a week or more. They also may sometimes occur during the summer months if there is wildfire smoke.

Air Quality 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.

During a Stage 1 air quality burn ban:

  • No burning is allowed in wood-burning fireplaces, uncertified wood stoves, or uncertified fireplace inserts unless this is your only adequate source of heat and you have an approved exemption*
  • All outdoor burning is prohibited, even in areas where outdoor burning is not permanently banned. This includes wood- and charcoal-fueled recreational fires

During a Stage 2 air quality burn ban:

  • No burning is allowed in ANY wood-burning fireplaces, wood stoves or fireplace inserts (certified or uncertified), or pellet stoves, unless this is your only adequate source of heat and you have an approved exemption*
  • All outdoor burning is prohibited, even in areas where outdoor burning is not permanently banned. This includes wood- and charcoal-fueled recreational fires

* Even those using a certified device or those for whom this is their only adequate source of heat and have an approved exemption cannot generate visible smoke.

Air Quality vs. Fire Safety Burn Bans

Air quality burn bans are issued and enforced by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency when air pollution may reach or reaches unhealthy levels. Air quality burn bans typically occur during colder fall and winter months. They also may sometimes occur during the summer months if there is wildfire smoke.

Fire safety burn bans are issued by the fire marshal when dry weather conditions heighten the risk of wildfires. Fire safety burn bans are generally called during the summer and can last for several months.

Puget Sound Clean Air Agency is NOT responsible for issuing or enforcing fire safety burn bans.

For more on fire safety bans, contact your county fire marshal.