Burn bans expire in seven Eastern Washington counties

OLYMPIA – Burn bans expired last Tuesday, Dec. 20 in seven Eastern Washington counties because air quality has improved, according to the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology).
Ecology’s Stage 1 burn bans for Okanogan, Ferry, Chelan, Douglas, Stevens, Kittitas, and Walla Walla counties will expired at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
During the burn bans, use of uncertified wood-burning devices (including wood stoves, inserts and fireplaces) and all outdoor burning were prohibited.
These activities may resume now that the burn bans are lifted. However, Ecology urges people to think twice before burning because smoke from outdoor burning and wood-burning devices easily builds up at this time of year, when stagnant air conditions can trap smoke close to the ground.
Fine particles in smoke are so small they can easily get into your lungs. Once there, they can cause heart and breathing problems, and even death. Children, people with asthma and respiratory illnesses, and adults older than 65 are most at risk.
By limiting burning as much as possible, residents of affected areas can help prevent air quality from deteriorating to the point that burn bans are needed. And by following restrictions when burn bans are called, they can help limit the time period the bans are in effect.
A 2009 Ecology analysis estimates that fine particles contribute to about 1,100 deaths and millions of dollars in health-care costs each year in Washington. (www.ecy.wa.gov/biblio/0902021.html)
For burn ban updates:
* Check local media reports.
* Call Ecology’s smoke complaint hotline (1-866-211-6284).
* Check Ecology’s daily burn decision hotline (1-800-406-5322 in Washington) and Ecology’s website.
(http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/air/outdoor_woodsmoke/burn_ban.htm)
* Go online to www.waburnbans.net.
The Washington State Department of Health recommends that people who are sensitive to air pollution limit time spent outdoors, especially when exercising. Air pollution can trigger asthma attacks, cause difficulty breathing, and make lung and heart problems worse. Air pollution is especially harmful to people with lung and heart problems, people with diabetes, children, and older adults (over age 65).
Ecology recommends that people limit vehicle trips, combine errands or use public transportation to reduce air pollution.
You can track air quality in your area by using the Washington Air Quality Advisory (WAQA). This is Ecology’s tool for informing people about the health effects of air pollution, including fine particles. It uses color-coded categories to show when air quality is good, moderate or unhealthy. (https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/enviwa/Default.htm)
For more information about WAQA, see this Ecology focus sheet (http://www.ecy.wa.gov/pubs/0802022.pdf).

About Sandra Partridge

Sandra Partridge works for the Washington State Department of Ecology.

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