Washington County Advisory: Wood Smoke Advisory Season

By County Staff07-aq-red-light

Health officials at Washington County, together with the cities of Hillsboro and Cornelius, are reminding residents of wood smoke ordinances that may affect them. Exposure to wood smoke can be dangerous, especially for children, older adults and anyone with existing respiratory conditions like asthma. From November 1 through March 1, Washington County Public Health monitors daily air quality for levels of PM2.5, a type of fine air pollution caused in large part by wood smoke.

A red day alert means that air quality is unhealthy and that no fireplace or wood stove use is allowed, unless burning wood is a person’s only source of heat or if a person needs to burn wood for financial reasons. A yellow day means air quality is unhealthy for sensitive groups and people are asked to voluntarily not burn wood. A green day indicates that air quality is good.

Last year, the first year the ordinance was in effect, had one yellow day and zero red days.

12807205 - fire in fireplace interior with firewood in flame

The color-coded system applies to all residents of unincorporated Washington County, Hillsboro and Cornelius. “We hope that all Washington County residents will avoid burning wood if a red day alert is issued even if the ordinance doesn’t directly apply to them,” says Senior Program Coordinator Matt Davis. “This will help reduce the risk to our most vulnerable residents.”

Regardless of the red, yellow or green status of the air quality, residents are asked to practice clean burning techniques to minimize pollution, such as only burning dry wood that has been seasoned for at least six months. More information on the safest and most efficient ways to burn wood is available at www.epa.gov/burnwise.

Residents are encouraged to sign up to receive air quality and wood burning alerts for red days at www.publicalerts.org. More information and the daily air quality status can be found by calling 503-846-8744 or visiting www.co.washington.or.us/air.

To further reduce air pollution, the County introduced the Wood Stove Exchange Program earlier this fall. Residents who rely on an old or uncertified wood stove for heat may qualify for a rebate of up to $3,500 when they switch to a cleaner heating device such as a pellet stove or electric heat pump. Some households will even qualify for a free replacement, depending on income.

Funding for this program is limited, so people are encouraged to apply early by visiting www.WoodStoveExchange.com or calling 503-846-4425.