By Pat Jenkins

The Dispatch

The recent break in normally dreary, rainy weather comes with a price for some parts of Pierce County.

Stagnant weather conditions and rising air pollution – the downside of all the brilliantly clear, blue skies—prompted the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency to issue a Stage 1 burn ban Dec. 8 for Pierce County to protect people’s health.

The ban, which officials said is in effect until further notice, means the following is no-no:

• The use of wood-burning fireplaces, uncertified wood stoves or fireplace inserts. Officials said residents should rely instead on their home’s other, cleaner source of heat (such as their furnace or electric baseboard heaters) until air quality improves, the public health risk diminishes and the ban is canceled. The only exception is for homeowners who have a previously approved exemption from the Clean Air Agency because burning is their only source of heat.

• Outdoor fires are allowed. Bonfires, campfires, fire pits and chimineas are forbidden.

Those restrictions don’t apply to certain parts of south Pierce County, however. The Town of Eatonville and communities within the South Pierce Fire and Rescue and the Fire District 23 (Ashford) areas aren’t included in the ban.

But virtually everywhere else in Pierce County and Snohomish County is under the temporary ban. According to the Clean Air Agency, a high-pressure system over the regions is keeping weather conditions clear and calm, which causes air pollution as a result of no wind to clear out smoke from residential wood-burning.

Weather forecasters expected the clear, relatively windless conditions to continue through at least Dec. 11 and possibly farther into this week.

Violations of the burn ban can bring a $1,000 penalty under state law.

While indoor and outdoor burning is out during the ban, it’s okay to use natural gas and propane-powered stoves or inserts, officials said.

Health authorities warn that people who are sensitive to air pollution should limit their time outdoors, especially when exercising. Air pollution can trigger asthma attacks and other difficulty breathing, and also make lung and heart problems worse. In general, people at risk include ones with diabetes, children, and older adults over the age of 65.