Better Outdoor Burning

Helpful Tips for Best Burning Practices
  1. Call before you burn
    If you have obtained a valid permit, always call SWCAA before you burn. Although most days are “burn days,” impaired air quality or fire danger may necessitate a suspension of burning. The phone number is 360-574-3058, ext. 6.
  2. Handling debris on your property
    If you have cut or downed vegetation on your property, and are not yet ready to dispose of it, be sure and keep it at least 50 feet from any structure, and create a 20 foot fire break around it.
  3. Pile the debris
    Piling the debris creates a chimney effect during burning and preheats the debris. Hot fires and dry fuel produce less smoke. Remove as much dirt as possible from the debris as you pile it. Dirt in the pile prevents the fire from burning hot and efficiently.
  4. Burn dry fuel
    For best results and a cleaner fire, burn when your debris is dry. Cover piles with tree boughs, paper or plastic to keep the debris dry until you are ready to burn. Be sure to remove the paper or plastic before burning.

  5. Give it air
    Directing a fan or leaf blower into your fire will help it burn hotter, with less smoke. Plus, you have the added bonus of getting the pile burned up in half the time.

  6. Choose the right weather for burning
    Cloudy days usually have light winds and are the best days to burn. Because air tends to be unstable, there is generally enough air movement on cloudy days to disperse the smoke and avoid causing a smoke disturbance. Do not burn when the wind is swaying trees or extending flags, or when the wind is blowing toward your neighbor’s home.
  7. Start the fire at midday or in early afternoon
    Avoid burning when it is foggy. Fog is a sign of stable air that will not disperse the smoke into the atmosphere. If you must burn on clear days, start the fire in the afternoon. There is often not enough air movement on clear days to disperse the smoke from your fire. Local winds tend to blow up the slopes of hills as the day warms and the air rises.
  8. Finish burning before nighttime
    As temperatures begin to cool later in the day, the air tends to sink. These downslope nighttime winds will carry the smoke from your fire down toward the valley bottoms and low areas. Smoke from your fire may be trapped near the ground during the night and early morning when cool air pools near the ground. This is called an inversion (cool air beneath warm air). Plan to have your burning completed before downslope nighttime winds and inversions create a smoke nuisance for your neighbors.