By Matthew Nash
Olympic Peninsula News Group
SEQUIM — Local residents served by Clallam County Fire District No. 3 no longer need a free residential burn permit.
Fire district staff said more than 5,000 households hold residential permits dating back to the early 2000s, with permit holders required to email in, call in or drop off renewals annually.
The district’s board of commissioners unanimously voted last month to stop issuing the permits largely due to the amount of staff time it takes to issue them.
Assistant Chief Dan Orr said they found most illegal fires they responded to were cases where the residents didn’t have a permit and that permits were viewed more as an opportunity to educate the public on Olympic Region Clean Air Agency regulations.
He said first districts were given two options based on the Washington State Clean Air Act starting in the early 1990s to either offer a burn permit program or restrict residential fires to two weekends a year.
Fire District Nos. 2 and 3 were the only two still issuing residential burn permits in Clallam County, Orr said.
The Olympic Region Clean Air Agency, which governs outdoor burning, authorizes residential burning without a permit so long as districts follow their rules, which are the same as Fire District No. 3’s guidelines.
Those rules include:
• Residential burning is permitted if the fire is less than 4 feet in diameter from May 1-June 30 and not larger than 10 feet in diameter from Oct. 1-April 30.
• No burning within the city of Sequim or urban growth areas of Sequim and Carlsborg.
• Burning is only allowed during daylight hours, but recreational fires are excluded from the restriction.
• Only natural vegetation can be burned.
• Burn barrels are not permitted.
• Burn bans override all of these restrictions.
Orr said fire crews will continue to respond to illegal burns, but ORCAA will be the enforcement agency.
Robert Moody, ORCAA compliance supervisor, said three areas in its district — Ocean Park Fire Protection District No. 1, Mason County and Thurston County — require residential burn permits and ORCAA issues those permits in Thurston County.
He said they worked with local fire districts to craft residential burn programs to mitigate smoke impacts and calls to 9-1-1.
“It gives us the ability so that we can call them,” Moody said. “If they have a permit and there are complaints, it helps us get a faster response if there’s a problem.”
Fire crews in the Sequim area will continue outreach about regulations, Orr said, and the district commissioners’ decision doesn’t affect how or when burning occurs.
For more information, call ORCAA at 800-422-5623 or Fire District No. 3 at 360-683-4242.
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].