What to know before outdoor burning this fall

Make sure you know what you're doing before burning any piles. Photo: Carrie McCausland/DNR
Make sure you know what you’re doing before burning any debris piles. Photo: Carrie McCausland/DNR

Fall and winter can bring rough weather conditions that wreak havoc with roadways, homes, businesses, and utilities. Storms can quickly tear limbs from trees.

When you need to clear away yard and tree debris after a storm, however, think about options other than outdoor burning. Outdoor burning is a leading cause of wildfire ignitions, smoke and certain pollutants. This smoke can be unhealthy, because the small particles in smoke are so tiny they easily get into your lungs. People most at risk are children, patients with respiratory illnesses, and adults more than 65 years old. Visit the Department of Ecology’s air quality website to find your local clean air agency for burn ban information.

If you must burn, know the rules, and choose the right weather for burning. Generally, cloudy days are favorable. The air on cloudy days tends to be unstable and generates enough wind to disperse smoke.

After you’ve stacked your pile of debris, cover it at least partially to keep the interior dry. Piles are easier to burn when drier, plus they generate a lot less smoke.

You can use just about anything, such as plastic, old tarps, lumber wraps, or cardboard. Just be sure to remove the cover before igniting your pile, as you may be fined for burning prohibited materials. Besides, the cover can be reused the next time you plan to burn.

If you have a burn barrel, don’t use it. In fact, just get rid of it – burn barrels are illegal in Washington state and have been for quite some time.

For more information on outdoor burning, go to DNRs Silvicultural Outdoor Burning webpage.

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