Where there is smoke, there is likely fire and non-compliance with the burn ban. Our agency inspectors are trained to read the density, or “opacity,” of smoke and to determine if visible smoke violates the state’s opacity laws. It is always illegal to generate excessive smoke, defined as 20% opacity or more for more than six consecutive minutes, even when a burn ban is not in effect.
If you have a device that is legal to use during a Stage 1 burn ban or if this is your only adequate source of heat and you have an approved exemption, you still must burn cleanly and not emit visible smoke. Remember, excessive smoke is illegal at any time, from any device.
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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 adversely impacted. Air quality burn bans typically occur during fall and winter months and may last for up to a week or more. They also may sometimes occur during the summer months if there is wildfire smoke.
For more information, visit our About Burn Bans page.
During a Stage 1 air quality burn ban:
During a Stage 2 air quality burn ban:
The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency has regulatory authority to issue air quality burn bans in King, Kitsap, Pierce, and Snohomish counties, in accordance with RCW 70.94.473.
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 young children, older adults and people with respiratory and heart disease. During stagnant weather conditions, concentrations of wood smoke can reach harmful levels, so we restrict wood smoke emissions to protect air quality in our neighborhoods and the health of those living there.
The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency calls air quality burn bans for King, Kitsap, Pierce, and Snohomish counties. Air quality burn bans for areas outside Puget Sound Clean Air Agency’s jurisdiction are issued by other local air agencies, the Washington Department of Ecology, or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
We follow State Burn Ban Requirements:
We will issue Stage 1 air quality burn bans when weather conditions are predicted to create stagnant air and a build-up of fine particle pollution (PM2.5) that:
In some cases when PM2.5 levels are rising rapidly, we may call a Stage 2 air quality burn ban without first calling a Stage 1 air quality burn ban.
Forecast weather conditions play a major role in determining when – or whether – to issue an air quality burn ban. For example, in certain circumstances when pollution levels have risen to the Stage 2 trigger, we may not issue an air quality burn ban if we expect that weather conditions over the next 24 hours will clean out our area’s air pollution.
We also issue these air quality bans based on the air quality conditions in the individual counties and in some cases sub-county areas within our jurisdiction. As a result, one or more counties or areas may have a Stage 1 burn ban in place while another county has advanced to a Stage 2 burn ban. Or one county may have a burn ban in effect while others have no restrictions in place.
The Agency issues air quality forecasts year-round to inform the public of expected conditions and health impacts based on EPA’s Air Quality Index.
We typically issue air quality burn bans on a county-wide basis. Our counties, however, have very diverse landscapes. Sometimes, one part of a county may experience stagnant weather conditions and elevated pollution levels, while in another part of the county, it’s windy and the air is somewhat cleaner.
We issue air quality burn bans when we expect air pollution to worsen. Sometimes the AQI may read “good” or “moderate” at the time we issue a ban; that means we anticipate that air pollution will build up soon. Pollution tends to build slowly during the day and is typically worst at night and early morning hours.
Air quality can indeed vary throughout our large counties. We typically issue air quality bans on a county-wide basis for clearly communicating it to the public and media, and to help maintain healthy air throughout the region.
There are a few exceptions to this. To find out what air quality burn ban zone you are in check the Burn Ban Area Map.
We call bans in Pierce and Snohomish counties more often due to lower thresholds for fine particle pollution (per state law). They also tend to have more burn bans than King or Kitsap because they reach higher pollution levels more frequently. This is in part because they have more wood burning communities in highly-populated, compact areas. It also tends to be a bit windier in Seattle and parts of King County, which helps blow away the pollution and keep it from reaching unhealthy levels.
We have identified the Pierce Peninsula and South Pierce zones of Pierce County as areas that may have levels of pollution different than the rest of the county. The Greater Pierce County zone experiences bans more often than the rest of our region.
To find out which burn ban zone you are in, please check the Pierce County Burn Ban Area Map.
To sign up for text alerts for these areas, text:
Pierce county has three separate burn ban zones. These zones are referred to as Greater Pierce County, South Pierce, and Pierce Peninsula.
We offer many ways to learn about burn bans (read more of our FAQs to learn more). You can also sign up to receive alerts about air quality burn bans.
If a fire is already lit, do not add more fuel and simply let it burn out. If using a wood stove or fireplace insert, increase or open the air flow to both improve the draft for a cleaner, hotter burn and to help the fire burn out faster.
See the rules about what devices can and cannot be used during a Stage 1 or a Stage 2 burn ban. Even if your device is allowed, do not produce excess smoke.
If our inspectors observe a air quality burn ban violation, they will issue a Notice of Violation to the property owner.
Air quality burn bans are issued and enforced by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency when air pollution levels rise to unhealthy levels. Air quality burn bans typically occur during colder fall and winter months. They sometimes occur in the summer months if there is also wildfire smoke.
Fire safety burn bans are issued and enforced by the fire marshal or local fire departments 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, even into the fall.
The 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 or local fire department.
A certified wood stove/fireplace insert would likely have a label indicating it complies with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emission standards. To the right is a sample label.
Here are a few other ways to determine whether you have a certified or uncertified device:
On the few days we have air quality burn bans in place, the use of your (primary) clean heating device is expected in order to keep air quality healthy for you, your family, and your neighbors. The exception is if your wood stove is your only adequate source of heat and you have an approved "no other adequate source of heat" exemption from the Agency.
An “adequate source of heat” is a heating system that is designed to maintain a temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit at a point three feet above the floor in each normally inhabited room. We base our assessment on the adequacy of the whole system’s heating capacity, including any parts of the heating system that may have been disconnected, damaged or simply aren’t working.
Most homes in our area have another adequate source of heat beyond wood stoves, because of building code requirements.
In some cases, using a wood burning device may be the only way to adequately heat your home. If you believe this is true for your home, you may apply for “no other adequate source of heat” exemption through our agency.
You must apply and be approved for this exemption before using your wood burning device during an air quality burn ban.
Download the Application Form (PDF)
To learn more about these exemptions, read our No Other Adequate Source of Heat FAQs.
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 Agency has prohibited the use of primarily uncertified wood stoves and fireplaces in order to reduce pollution and lessen the impact on public health.
The air quality burn ban program has evolved over the years to reflect updates in health information and mandated air quality standards.
More restrictive air quality 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).
You can call us at 206-343-8800 or submit a web inquiry with your question.