SWCAA regulates facilities such as industrial or other stationary sources of air pollution, outdoor burning, wood stoves, fireplaces, and the removal of asbestos. Learn more here.
SWCAA is a regulatory agency and does not test air quality directly. Contact an environmental testing agency or consult your local HVAC company.
Even though humans have been burning wood since the beginning of time, scientists now know how hazardous woodsmoke is to our health. Laws have changed over the years to better protect our health and ambient air quality. In areas with a higher population density, the outdoor burning of yard debris has been banned completely. Burn barrels were banned over 20 years ago and in 1967 burning garbage was declared illegal. Moisture meters can confirm firewood is seasoned properly and under 20% moisture content. Air quality monitors help determine our air pollution impact to keep us on track. Learn more about the background of permanent no burn areas.
Woodsmoke is toxic and contains many of the same cancer-causing substances as cigarettes. Short-term exposure can cause long-term health effects. Smoldering wet material, like grass and leaves, creates heavy smoke that often settles at ground level. A little smoke goes a long way and can travel for miles depending on the day. As you may have experienced during wildfire smoke episodes, you cannot just close the windows. The smoke will find its way into homes. Learn more about protecting your indoor air quality.
Dry material is key, whether burning yard debris, burning in a wood stove, fireplace or recreationally. The goal is a hot fire for complete combustion creating the least amount of smoke possible. Choose another solution, instead of creating unnecessary air pollution.
Where there's smoke there's fire. A smoldering fire creates ground level air pollution since there is little heat to help it rise. Sometimes when the breeze is just right the fire can relight. Burn right and put the fire out completely before leaving at night.
The fire department will typically say a fire is okay, if it's well controlled and at no risk of escape. The fire departments primary concern is fire safety, not air quality. They should only be called in case of emergency. Smoke complaints can be filed with the SW Clean Air Agency.
A safe fire is not necessarily a legal fire.
Let's start with where you live. Can you burn yard debris on your property? If the answer is yes, then it depends on what type of vegetative debris you need to dispose of. Even with a permit burn bans still apply.
Residential small debris fires related to property maintenance should only include DRY tree branches, and woody yard debris. The self-issued permit is for one fire under 10'x10'x6'. This is a single-day event that needs to be completely out before nightfall, with a free permit from the local county agency or the fire marshal. Instead of creating air pollution, choose to chip, compost, or recycle.
Did you clear trees from the property? Or have more than one pile of debris? Slash piles larger than 10ft x 10ft x 6ft, multi-day burning, or land clearing, require a site-specific permit from the county, SWCAA, or Department of Natural Resources (DNR), depending on location and any forest practices designation.
Processed lumber may be coated with clear antifungal or pesticide agents which are toxic when burned. Demolition materials may contain contaminates including asbestos. Particle board and plywood contain formaldehyde, glues, and other resins. Burning anything other than natural vegetation is illegal. Processed wood (urban wood) can be recycled locally. Most of the material is used as hog fuel for the creation of energy.
Many manufactured fire starters and logs sold in stores are made with ingredients such as wax and cardboard. SWCAA recommends sticking with seasoned firewood to avoid smoke and odor complaints in the neighborhood.
Time, preparation and moisture content. Properly seasoned firewood
will contain under 20% moisture content when tested with a moisture
Tip: Bark is naturally fire retardant and can have bite. Leave it out of the fire to ensure the cleanest burn possible. When the wood is split and seasoned properly, the bark should fall off naturally.
Overlapping fire safety and air quality setback regulations apply. Most fire safety regulations require a 25-foot setback from all combustibles for a recreational, wood burning fire, under 3'x3'. State air quality laws require 50-foot setbacks from structures, decks, and fences for all outdoor fires, regardless of type or size. Avoid unnecessary air pollution and smoke complaints by converting recreational wood burning firepits to use natural gas or propane.
By state law burn barrels were banned over 20 years ago. When a fire's oxygen flow is restricted the incomplete combustion results in heavy smoke that can settle at ground level. Typically, barrels were used to burn garbage which is also illegal.
The key is dry debris and oxygen. Propane burners, fans, and leaf blowers help add oxygen into the fire creating better combustion and less pollution. If the yard debris is wet or green, cover it from rainfall until the branches are free of leaves and dry enough to break clean.
In addition to the fire risk and noise complaints, fireworks cause extensive air pollution in a short amount of time. Fireworks leave metal particles, dangerous toxins, micro-litter, and harmful chemicals behind. The smoke can remain in the air for hours or days. Some of the toxins never fully decompose or disintegrate.
Locating an address may be easy when you live
across the street. But when the target location is blocks away or behind
your property, use your County GIS webpage, or other online maps to
determine the address.
County GIS Maps| Clark | Cowlitz | Lewis | Skamania | Wahkiakum
The contrails or vapor trails observed in the sky are line-shaped clouds that will dissipate over time. They are produced by hot aircraft engine exhaust in low-temperature, high altitudes or changes in air pressure. How long the lines stay in the sky depends on the weather. Visit the EPA for additional details on contrails.
Odors are bound to travel between properties in close proximity. Individual choices in cleaning products, fragrances, cooking ingredients, smoking or other odorous activities are considered civil matters between neighbors. If a conversation without a confrontation is not an option, consider mediation.
The Department of Ecology Industrial Section oversees refineries, smelters, paper mills, and chemical manufacturing plants.
Moving and separating materials at the transfer station can potentially expose the employees and public to asbestos. Learn more about demolition and renovation requirements.
There are many types, styles, and unit measurements to choose from. A great place to start is the EPA Air Sensor Toolbox.