Wood Smoke Ordinance
Washington County is working to improve the air quality in our community. Of specific concern is an increase in fine particulate matter called PM2.5, which can pose serious health concerns. On October 6, 2015, the Washington County Board of Commissioners approved new rules to protect the public's health by reducing wood smoke. The ordinance is designed to raise awareness of wood smoke as a health issue and prevent unnecessary burning when the air quality is particularly poor. It went into effect on November 6, 2015.
Fireplaces, Wood Stoves and Wood Stove Inserts
The ordinance allows Washington County to issue air quality advisories between November 1 and March 1 and applies to anyone who lives in unincorporated Washington County. (The cities of Hillsboro and Cornelius have adopted similar ordinances, so the following color-coded system applies to those residents as well.)
A red day alert means that air quality is unhealthy and that no fireplace or wood stove use is allowed, unless exempt (see below). A yellow day means air quality is unhealthy for sensitive groups, and a green day indicates that air quality is healthy.
On red days, exemptions apply:
- To households that rely on wood burning as their only source of heat.
- To households that qualify as low-income (see Q&A document below).
- When there is an interruption in utility service (electricity or natural gas).
- When a household's primary heating system is temporarily not working (no more than 120 days).
The ordinance does not restrict the use of pellet stoves. The ordinance does not restrict burning between March 2 and October 31.
Outdoor Burning of Yard Debris (Year Round)
The ordinance prohibits the outdoor burning of yard debris in unincorporated areas of the county that are also within the Metropolitan Service District Boundary. Not sure if this is you? Find out by looking at this map (burning is not allowed in the blue sections). The ordinance does not restrict residential fires such as backyard fire pits, chimineas or barbecues. It also does not restrict burning associated with agricultural operations.
Red Day Alert Notifications (November 1 through March 1)
- Bookmark this page to check the air quality status every day with your morning coffee.
- Call the Air Quality Status Line at 503-846-8744.
- Sign up for Public Alerts to receive a text, email or phone call when there is a "red day" for poor air quality. There are a couple of potentially confusing steps in the sign-up process, so we created these instructions to help you.
Additional Information and Forms
- Wood Smoke and Air Quality Ordinance Fact Sheet (PDF) -- English/Spanish
- Wood Smoke Ordinance Q&A (PDF)
- Wood Burning Complaint Form
- Hardship Permit Request for outdoor burning of yard debris
Wood Stove Exchange Program
If you use an old or uncertified wood stove for heat, you might be able to trade it in for a rebate (or even free). Visit this page for more information.