Outdoor Burn Ban and Air Quality Pollution Action Levels Facts
Outside burning during some periods of the year needs to be limited because of the negative affect on people’s health. Smoke from fires is composed of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) that when breathed in stay in the lungs.
Burn bans may be declared if the local air quality monitor concentrations levels are 75% of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) and these levels are expected to continue for 24 hours or more. The NAAQS standard concentration is 35 μg/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter) making 75% of that 26 μg/m3.
Burn bans are typically called between October 1 and the end of February and are usually related to weather conditions know as inversions. When warm air lies on top of cold air, functionally capping it, any air pollution is trapped at or near ground level. Inversions maybe localized in valley bottoms, or over large areas such as Eastern Washington.
Know where the smoke you produce ends up. Smoke from backyard debris piles appears to go straight up when you are standing next to it. In reality smoke does go up for a short distance then tends to move with the prevailing wind and drop back to ground levels several blocks or even miles away. The people at that location may be at risk for health problems due to increased PM2.5. Burning wet leaves produces large quantities of smoke and smells up your neighborhood.
Materials that are intended to be burned must be clean dry natural vegetation. You should cover any piles if you intend to burn after rain or snow occurs. All noncombustible material must be removed, such as dirt, rocks and garbage.
Air pollution episodes are also brought on by stagnant air, wildfires and other events that produce large quantities of air pollutants which cause the buildup near where people live. These action levels will inform people so they can modify their behavior and not experience health problems.
Note: Cultural and Traditional fires are exempt from these rules.
Outdoor Burn Bans do not include restrictions of wood stove use for heating homes.
Air Stagnation Advisory - The most common pollution episode usually occurring between October and February when inversions form in valley bottoms. People should consider limiting their outdoor activity if they have lung and heart disease, diabetes, a current respiratory infection and those who have had a stroke.
Air Pollution Alert – When the expected 24 hour average is 55.5 to 150 μg/m3. Everyone should try to limit their outdoor activity. People should stay indoors if they have lung and heart disease, diabetes, or a respiratory infection, those who have had a stroke, infants/children and adults older than 65.
Air Pollution Warning - When the expected 24 hour average is 150.5 to 250 μg/m3. Everyone should try to stay indoors. Shut your windows and doors if it is not too hot. Set air conditioners to “recirculate” if possible. Minimize all outdoor activities.
Air Pollution Emergency - When the expected 24 hour average is 250 μg/m3 or higher. Everyone should try to stay indoors and limit their physical activity. Shut windows and doors. If it is too hot, set air conditioners to “recirculate” if possible. If windows and doors cannot be shut, consider leaving the area until air quality improves.
All open burning (except cultural and traditional fires) is prohibited during an air pollution alert, air pollution warning, or air pollution emergency. Many times this coincides with safety burn bans during wildlife season.
What Cannot be burned
Garbage, Dead Animals, Junked Motor Vehicles, Tires or Rubber Materials, Plastics, Plastic Products or Styrofoam, Asphalt or Composition Roofing, Tar, Tar paper, Petroleum Products, Paints, Lumber or Timbers Treated with Preservatives, Construction Debris, Pesticides, Herbicides, Fertilizers or other Chemicals, Insulated Wire, Batteries, Light Bulbs, Mercury Containing Material, Asbestos or Material Containing Asbestos, Pathogenic Wastes, Hazardous Wastes, Any Item that Emits Dense Smoke or Noxious Fumes
What Can be burned
Natural Vegetation, Paper and Cardboard from Homes
"Fires must not smolder, smoldering fire produces large quantities of smoke"
Air pollution concentrations for the Colville Reservation and surrounding area can be viewed on these websites:
Omak area - https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/enviwa/Default.ltr.aspx
Nespelem and Inchelium - http://18.104.22.168/airvision/
All areas - http://www.airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=airnow.local_state
Burn Ban Fact Sheet PDF
Press Release on Burn Ban link
Federal Air Rules for Reservations (FARR) pdf