Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Permanent Burn Ban Planned

Permanent burn ban planned in rural areas

Seattle Times environment reporter

Burn-ban comments sought

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency has set a public hearing for 9:15 a.m. Feb. 28 at the Microsoft Auditorium in Seattle's Central Library, 1000 Fourth Ave. The agency also will accept comments at a series of five workshops that begin in January. People can e-mail comments to outdoorburningcomments or by mail to Lynn Sykes, Puget Sound Clean Air Agency; 1904 Third Ave., Suite 105; Seattle, WA 98101.

For more information, go to

Those small, flaming leaf piles that are a fixture of autumn rural life might be extinguished permanently in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties — in the name of clean air.

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, which is in charge of air-quality laws in the three counties, announced Monday that it is planning to impose a permanent ban on burning related to land clearing and at private residences throughout those counties, to take effect over the next three years.

The move, if approved by the agency's board of directors, would expand an existing ban in urban centers to everywhere in the three counties. It would result in the first such countywide burn bans in the state.

The ban would not include recreational burning, such as outdoor fire pits. Nor would it apply to agricultural or logging operations, or emergency debris-clearing after storms, as long as a permit is obtained.

The proposal was prompted by a growing sense that plenty of alternatives now exist to putting a match to the leaf and slash piles, said Alice Collingwood, a spokeswoman for the agency. People can compost leaves, haul yard waste to a transfer station, or, in many cases, leave it on their curb to be picked up, she said.

Developers already have begun having their wood debris chipped instead.

State law calls for burn bans wherever there are reasonable alternatives, Collingwood said. But she acknowledged the residential burn ban won't be an easy sell.

"I'm already hearing from people that 'I've got 20 acres; you're a city person, you don't understand,' " she said. "It may well be there are some folks for whom it doesn't work. But in most cases, there are alternatives for people."

But Dan Wood of the Washington Farm Bureau predicted such a ban would end up with people illegally dumping their debris, or cooking up creative excuses like calling their burn piles recreational barbecues.

"Government makes an awful lot of rules that are unenforceable," Wood said. "Either they make liars or creative people out of well-intended citizens."

Wood is a former Grays Harbor County commissioner who lives in a rural part of that county. He said he recycles scrupulously but also burns fallen limbs or leaves and paper products that can't be recycled, such as soiled pizza boxes.

He said he figures it's better to save space in the landfill and be left with a small pile of ashes.

Collingswood counters that Wood is actually breaking state law because it's already illegal to burn garbage such as waste paper.

Warren Cornwall: 206-464-2311 or

1 comment:

Greg Magone said...

I own thirty acres of land in King County and I'm trying to figure out what I'm supposed to do with all of the dead woody debris that on the property once the burn ban is in place. The dry debris makes my property a tinderbox, and by carefully burning in piles each year I reduce the risk of forest fire on my property and improve forest health. We saw what happened in Southern California - we sure don't want that happening here!