Air Quality

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. In 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.

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 we ask that recreational wood burners consider their neighbors before burning. 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. Be sure to check "Red Day Alerts" under Additional Notifications.

Additional Information and Forms

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.