Wood Smoke Advisory Season Starts Today in Washington County

For Immediate Release: Thursday, November 01, 2018

Sponsored by: Health and Human Services Department, Public Health Division

Health officials at Washington County, together with the cities of Hillsboro and Cornelius, are reminding residents of wood smoke ordinances that may affect them. Exposure to wood smoke can be dangerous, especially for children, older adults and anyone with existing respiratory conditions like asthma. From November 1 through March 1, Washington County Public Health monitors daily air quality for levels of PM2.5, a type of fine air pollution caused in large part by wood smoke.

A red day alert means that air quality is unhealthy and that no fireplace or wood stove use is allowed, unless burning wood is a person’s only source of heat or if a person needs to burn wood for financial reasons. A yellow day means air quality is unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as people with heart or lung disease, older adults, children and pregnant women. On yellow days, the County asks that people voluntarily not burn wood. Today is a green day, which means the air quality is good.

The color-coded system applies to residents of unincorporated Washington County, Hillsboro and Cornelius. “We hope that all Washington County residents will avoid burning wood if a red day alert is issued even if the ordinance doesn’t directly apply to them,” says Senior Program Coordinator Kathleen Johnson. “This will help reduce the risk to those most sensitive to wood smoke pollution.”

Regardless of the red, yellow or green status of the air quality, residents are asked to practice clean burning techniques to minimize pollution, such as only burning dry wood that has been seasoned for at least six months.

“Dry wood results in less smoke and more efficient burning,” says Johnson. “Less than 20 percent moisture content is good, and below 15 percent is ideal. Bringing wood inside 24-48 hours before using it is effective at drying the wood down to these levels.” Moisture meters are available at most hardware and home improvement stores. More information on the safest and most efficient ways to burn wood is available at www.epa.gov/burnwise.

Residents are encouraged to sign up to receive air quality and wood burning alerts for red days at www.publicalerts.org. The daily air quality status is available by calling 503-846-8744 or visiting www.co.washington.or.us/air.  

To further reduce air pollution, the County introduced the Wood Stove Exchange Program in August 2016. Residents who use an old or uncertified wood stove for heat may qualify for a rebate of up to $3,500 when they switch to a cleaner heating device such as a pellet stove or electric heat pump. Some households will even qualify for a free replacement, depending on income. Since the program’s inception, 304 old wood stoves have been replaced with new, cleaner heating devices. The County’s goal is to replace 700 old wood stoves over five years. The application is available at www.WoodStoveExchange.com or call 503-846-4425 for more information.

Media Contact:

Wendy Gordon, Communications Coordinator/PIO