PORT ANGELES — Air quality concerns have triggered a Stage 1 burn ban in eastern Clallam County, and others across the Olympic Peninsula are being asked to voluntarily refrain from burning.
The burn ban was called for the portion of Clallam County east of the Elwha River on Monday and will continue until conditions change, said Odelle Hadley, senior air monitoring specialist at Olympic Region Clean Air Agency.
“Your air quality numbers [Monday] morning were really bad so we felt we had no choice,” she said, adding that it’s fairly uncommon for Clallam County to be under a burn ban because of air quality.
That means no burning is allowed in fireplaces or uncertified wood stoves and all outdoor burning is prohibited. No visible smoke is allowed from any wood stove or fireplace, certified or not, beyond a 20-minute startup period.
She said the exception is if the stove or fireplace is the only source of heat in a home.
Hadley said that a system of stable weather conditions over western Washington mixed with cold overnight temperatures has caused air pollution levels to climb, raising concerns about the air quality and its impacts on health.
Monday morning air quality in Port Angeles was considered “very unhealthy” according to the scale used by the state Department of Ecology, which is more stringent than national standards.
Air quality in Port Townsend was “moderate” Monday and in Neah Bay air quality was “good.”
As the day progresses, air quality typically improves, Hadley said.
It’s during night and early morning that air quality is at its worst.
Hadley said that in the Port Angeles area air quality has steadily been worsening since Friday, which led to the burn ban.
With an air stagnation warning in effect, she said the ban was necessary.
“We really don’t like to do that, but when we woke up this morning it was in the solid red for a couple of hours,” she said. “If we were expecting the winds and weather to shift, we probably wouldn’t have [issued a burn ban].”
She said unless air quality improves dramatically, she anticipates the burn ban to be in effect through Thursday.
ORCAA is asking that others on the Olympic Peninsula voluntarily refrain from all outdoor burning and to use safe alternatives to wood heat if possible.
She said Thurston County is currently under a burn ban as well. Hadley said that it appeared there was a high level of compliance in the county and air pollution numbers went down.
“I’m encouraged by that,” she said. “Hopefully we can see a similar effect [in Clallam County].”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.