Photo credit: Erin McKay, CCCNRD
Outdoor burning is a complicated matter. Knowing who, what, when, and where can leave anyone asking why? There are four levels of authority having jurisdiction over outdoor burning in our district: Federal, State, County and Local. While the State and Federal agencies are responsible for specific types of burn permits and restrictions, we are the organization called to put your fire out. Burning, from camp fires to agricultural burns can be conducted in a manner that minimizes risk to public health as well as setting ablaze any unintended "fuels." Obtaining the correct permit and/or abiding current restrictions ensure we don't show up to ruin the party.
Air quality conditions, and seasonal fire danger play a big role in outdoor burning. If you are unsure, call us before you burn. Our staff can direct you to the appropriate authority having jurisdiction over your burn whether big or small. Listed below are several links to explore, as well as an FAQ box for all your burning questions.
What is outdoor burning?
Outdoor burning is burning of household yard waste, such as leaves, grass, brush and other yard trimmings. It is also burning to clear land of trees, stumps, shrubbery, or other natural vegetation.
What changed in 2007?
Before 2007, outdoor burning was banned only in urban growth areas for cities with more than 5,000 people. Starting January 1, 2007, outdoor burning is banned in all urban growth areas in Washington.
What is an urban growth area?
“Urban growth area” is a term used by cities and counties to define where home and business development is allowed. More development is allowed inside an urban growth area. For example, four houses per acre might be allowed in the urban growth area, while only one house per five acres might be allowed outside the area.
How will I know if I’m in an urban growth area?
To find out if you live in an urban growth area, follow the link below, or give us a call!
If I’m not in an urban growth area, can I still burn?
Short answer: Yes, but there's rules. Below are a few common answers:
Depending on the type and size of you burn you may need a permit from either WADNR or Dept. of Ecology. CCFD#1 does not issue permits.
Durring wildfire season you must follow the restrictions asociated with the Chelan County fire danger level. This includes recreational fires.
For any burn other than a recreational fire you must abide by the daily burn decision issued by Dept. of Ecology for our District.
If I can’t burn, what should I do with all my yard waste?
Call your local solid waste department to find out what options are available to you. Instead of burning, you could:
- Sealed compost bin
- Use curbside pickup
- Haul to yard waste disposal stations
- Hold community-wide or neighborhood cleanup days
What if my community doesn’t have any alternatives to burning?
Call your solid waste department to find out where you can take your yard waste until other options are available.
What’s wrong with burning?
Outdoor burning can harm health, the environment, and property:
- Burning pollutes the air, causing serious health problems. The smoke from burning leaves, grass, brush, and tree needles can cause asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, and lung cancer. Children, the elderly, and those with breathing problems are most harmed by poor air quality.
- Burning also pollutes our water and soil. Smoke particles fall into our water and on our soil.
- Backyard fires can destroy property. Backyard fires that get out of control set off most of the wildfires caused by people. You can be held responsible for the cost of putting out your out-of-control fire, which can be very expensive.
What happens if I keep burning?
You can be fined up to $10,000 per day for each violation. You can also be held responsible for the cost of putting out the fire. This can cost thousands of dollars.
Is smoke really a problem?
Smoke causes the health problems no matter where you live. Every community has smoke sensitive populations and burning effects their health and livelyhood.
Doesn’t smoke just blow away?
Sometimes it does. It depends on weather and geography. For example, if you live in a valley, smoke settles after sunset when cool air drops down from higher elevations. This cool, dense air carries smoke from outdoor fires and woodstoves, and accumulates near the valley bottom. Although some smoke may escape through valley openings or gaps and spread to another area, most of the smoke remains trapped until the sun has warmed the ground. Then, the warm air rises and may carry the smoke out of the valley. In the winter, the days rarely warm up enough to carry away the smoke, and more smoke gets added each day. Even on summer nights, smoke can reach unhealthy levels before being cleared out the following day.
Why are farm and orchard burning still allowed?
The Legislature decided to allow farm and orchard burning under certain conditions. Ecology issues burn permits to farmers and orchardists based on the reason for burning, the weather conditions, and the effects of the smoke on nearby people. Ecology gives advance notice about when burns will happen.
Why is forest burning still allowed?
Forest burning otherwise known as "prescribed fire" is allowed because it helps keep our forests healthy. However, it is done under strict guidelines by professionals.
Fun fact: The Washington State Department of Natural Resources issues permits for U.S. Forest Service burns.
Who should I call if someone is burning and they’re not supposed to?
You can report an illegle burn to Rivercom:
Or call us at:
Department of Ecology, 1-866-211-6284
Are garbage burning and burn barrels banned?
Garbage burning and burn barrels are illegal everywhere in Washington, and have been for many years.