November 7, 2011 in City, Idaho

All wood burning banned to curtail air pollution

By The Spokesman-Review
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The Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency today issued a stage two burning ban on the use of all wood heating devices, including certified stoves.

The red burn ban will be in effect until midday Tuesday at least, and is the strongest action the agency takes in burning bans. A yellow ban affects non-certified stoves and fireplaces.

Air pollution levels were on the rise in the Spokane area today as cold air near the ground prevents mixing of the atmosphere.

The clean air agency reported this morning that the air quality index was well into the moderately polluted range from fine particles of smoke. A reading of 88 was reported this morning, which is well above the threshold of 50 for moderate pollution. The highest level was at a measuring station at Augusta Avenue and Fiske Street.

The ban affects all wood heating devices, including fireplaces, fireplace inserts and wood stoves. Outdoor burning was also banned.

For more information, go to or call the burning information line at (509) 477-4710. Exemptions are available for homes without other adequate heating systems and for lower income residents.

Today’s 4 a.m. weather balloon measured warming temperatures to a height of about 900 feet above the ground, an indication that a pollution-trapping air inversion was fairly shallow.

In Spokane, 80 percent of winter air pollution is caused by wood smoke, which is a health hazard because the aromatic compounds are so tiny they travel deep into the lungs and can be trapped there.

Light winds today were allowing for some mixing of the air, and pollution levels were dropping through the day.

But National Weather Service forecasters said a weather system off the Pacific would not be strong enough to end moderate pollution until a stonger storm arrives this weekend.

National Weather Service forecasters this afternoon downgraded the weak storm system, saying it will not bring precipitation, but only clouds.

The 3 p.m. temperature was only 39. Lows tonight may be in the upper 20s.

Today started out cold with 27 degrees being reported at Spokane International Airport and in Coeur d’Alene at 7 a.m. Felts Field near Millwood was reporting 23 degrees.

A minor warmup is expected through the week with highs moving back into the lower 50s by Thursday. Lows are expected to be near 30 degrees.

The week should see mostly dry weather with a mix of clouds and sun. The next chance of precipitation is on Friday night.

More than 2,000 tons of wood smoke particles are released into the air over Spokane each burning season.

When burning is allowed, people heating with wood are required to keep a low density of smoke. Opacity of chimney exhaust can be no more than 20 percent, and violations can lead to enforcement.

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