POULSBO — Between the current heat wave and the forest fires in Canada, Kitsap County residents are getting hit with a double whammy, burn ban wise.
One is a burn ban due to poor air quality, the other is a burn ban due to fire danger.
A Phase I burn ban has been in effect since July 15 in Kitsap County, according to Poulsbo Fire Department. Phase I, a suspension of burn permits and all outdoor burning with the exception of recreational fires, is implemented by the county fire marshal when “the moisture in vegetation drops to dangerously low levels,” according to the Poulsbo Fire Department website.
So, it’s still OK to fire up the ol’ charcoal grill tonight. Right?
The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency also issues burn bans — the agency calls them “stages” instead of “phases” and uses Arabic numbers instead of Roman numerals. With a Stage 1 burn ban, which the agency implemented on Aug. 2 for Kitsap County, all outdoor fires are prohibited.
In short: The county fire marshal’s burn ban relates to fire risk due to dry conditions; the Clean Air Agency burn ban relates to air quality.
Bottom line: If it makes smoke, don’t do it.
Air pollution is usually a problem in winter time because of residential wood burning, said Joanna Cruse, a communications officer for the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.
“This is very unique and uncommon,” Cruse said about our current smoky situation.
“There are over 100 fires burning in southern and south central Canada,” said Phil Swartzendruber, an agency specialist. “The winds have shifted and it carrying it [the smoke] to us … Throughout the whole region, we are experiencing [air pollution] levels similar to winter.
“This is a little bit of an uncharted area for us because we’ve never had these levels [of smoke pollution] in the summertime before.”
A Stage 1 burn ban is instituted when pollution reaches 35 micrograms per cubic meter of air, Swartzendruber said. A Stage 2 ban is instituted when pollution reaches 25 micrograms and is expected to stay at that level for some time and further restricts the use of indoor fireplaces and stoves.
“We would be in a Stage 2 burn ban if this were the wintertime,” he said.
The agency’s app, Burn Ban 411, reported on Aug. 2 there is a Stage 1 burn ban in effect for Kitsap, in addition to existing fire safety burn bans. That means “all outdoor burning is prohibited … even in areas where otherwise permitted by law,” according to Burn Ban 411.
“With winds from British Columbia moving wildfire smoke into our area, air pollution levels have become unhealthy for sensitive groups,” according to the agency. “The purpose of the burn ban is to reduce any additional harm to sensitive populations from excess air pollution … No outdoor or recreational burning allowed.”
The rules say this means no campfires or bonfires, charcoal barbecues, fire pits, chimineas, fire bowls, or similar free-standing devices.
Burn ban violations are subject to a $1,000 penalty.
Conditions may improve later this week, however. “The winds are expected to shift [away from us] late Friday or Saturday,” Swartzendruber said.
For information about current burn bans: Bainbridge Island, 206-842-7686; North Kitsap 360-297-4888; Central Kitsap, 360-447-3555; South Kitsap, 360-871-2425; and Puget Sound Clean Air Agency 800-595-4341.