New rules that take effect Nov. 6 are aimed at reducing wood smoke, improving air quality and protecting public health in Washington County.

The rules were approved Tuesday by county commissioners.

One part bans the burning of yard debris all year in unincorporated areas where haulers provide pick-up service for debris. The ban does not apply to agricultural burning or recreational uses, such as fire pits.

The other empowers the county to ban use of woodstoves and fireplaces in unincorporated areas if air quality is deemed “unhealthy” and there is a “red” alert. “Yellow” signifies that air quality is unhealthy for sensitive people, and “green” means good air quality.

Alerts will be issued in consultation with air quality monitoring experts at the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

The ban would exempt residents who rely solely on heat from wood or are low income. The ban does not apply to use of wood-pellet stoves.

“We recognize that wood burning is a preferred and often times necessary source of heat in our community,” says Marni Kuyl, director of the Department of Health and Human Services. “Keeping families warm this winter remains a top priority, and we will continue to work in a way that supports — not restricts — our residents’ ability to stay warm and healthy.”

Federal air quality standards in the Portland metropolitan area — including Washington County — are under threat on winter days when cold air traps wood smoke, which has fine particles known as PM-2.5.

Such particles can stay near the ground for days or weeks and aggravate breathing for children, older people, or those with respiratory diseases such as asthma.

The problem has occurred in other parts of Oregon, such as the Rogue Valley, where a similar effort 25 years ago helped bring the region into compliance with federal air quality standards.

Oregon began certifying woodstoves to comply with emissions standards back in 1983. There is a program for homeowners to switch out older polluting stoves, and Kuyl says Washington County is working toward implementing one.

The county also is developing hardship permits for those who have no alternative to burning yard debris.

Chairman Andy Duyck said he had questions about enforcement, which will be driven by complaints. But Duyck also said state law bars the sale of homes with nonconforming woodstoves.

Among those testifying for the ordinance were Nina DeConcini, DEQ’s regional administrator for northwest Oregon; Peter Brandom, senior project manager for Hillsboro, which has adopted a similar ordinance; Harvey Gail, representing the Oregon Hearth Patio and Barbecue Association, and Tim Reed of Fireside Home Solutions in Beaverton.

The county also offers tips for cleaner burning:

• Burn dry wood that has seasoned for at least six months.

• Make small, hot fires.

• Do not burn garbage or household waste.

• Don't keep a fire burning overnight. Doing so is a fire hazard and can create serious indoor and outdoor air pollution problems.

• Keep your stove or fireplace clean and well maintained.

Information: (503) 846-8722 or

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Go to top
Template by JoomlaShine