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Burning restrictions imposed through Monday

Bans take effect on use of fireplaces and non-certified stoves to limit air pollution

The state of Washington and the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency this morning issued stage-1 burning restrictions through at least 4 p.m. on Monday.

The restrictions will limit indoor burning to stoves and fireplace inserts that are federally approved to minimize pollution.

The limitations under a stage-1 yellow alert follow one day after the National Weather Service warned of stagnant air through Monday afternoon.

Outside of the Spokane urban area, state officials have banned the use of uncertified wood stoves and fireplaces in Spokane, Stevens, Walla Walla, Kittitas, Chelan and Douglas counties due to poor air quality.

In North Idaho, a voluntary wood stove ban is in effect.

The ban applies to stoves and other wood-burning devices that don’t have pollution controls certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Outdoor burning is also banned. An exemption is allowed for residential wood heating when the device is a family’s primary source of heat.

The bans will remain effect until at least 4 p.m. Monday, according to the state Department of Ecology and Spokane air agency.

Higher air pressure over the Pacific Northwest has created conditions conducive to accumulation of smoke, dust and other pollutants in the lower atmosphere.

The main pollutant is wood smoke.

Cold air near the ground is trapped beneath layers of warmer air aloft, preventing the polluted air from moving away or being diluted by cleaner air from above.

“Weather forecast models predict very weak ventilation of the atmosphere,” said Mark Rowe of the Spokane clean air agency in a news release. “All of this means deteriorating air quality for the Spokane area until the middle of next week.”

Stoves and fireplace inserts built in 1993 or later are approved as cleaner burning and carry a label on the back side that confirms compliance.

Air quality this morning was measured in the moderate category at 79 points. Air scientists consider the potential for worsening pollution when imposing restrictions on indoor burning. The goal is to prevent air quality from deteriorating to the unhealthful level for persons with health problems. That level starts at 100 on the standardized pollution scale.

People with lung conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease say that they suffer increasing symptoms under higher pollution levels.

A 2009 study through the state DOE estimates that fine particles contribute to about 1,100 deaths and about $190 million in health-care costs each year in Washington.

Officials said that having an approved device still requires proper fire-burning skills. They recommend starting with a small hot fire using seasoned and dry wood and then letting the stove or insert warm thoroughly before building a larger fire. The exhaust from the chimney or stove pipe should only show heat ripples and no visible smoke if the device is operating properly. If smoke does show, then increasing air flow and the intensity of the fire will eliminate visible smoke.

Also, a smokeless fire provides maximum heat from the wood being consumed.

The burn ban does not apply on tribal reservations, where the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has jurisdiction.

However, the EPA has taken action to stop or curtail outdoor burning on reservations.

Burn ban violators are subject to civil penalties. Violations can be reported to the Department of Ecology’s smoke complaint hotline (1-866-211-6284). For burn ban updates, go online to

Complaints may also be lodged with the Spokane clean air agency at 477-4727.

Weather forecasters are calling for continued dry and sunny weather with highs in the 30s and lows in the teens through Saturday. Moderating temperatures are expected to allow highs to go to the lower 40s by Tuesday with lows remaining in the 20s.

This story has been updated from an earlier version and will continue to be updated throughout the day.