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Land-clearing burn ban to take effect Sept. 1
Clouds of smoke rising above piles of wood debris will soon disappear, much to the relief of respiratory systems everywhere.
The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency board of directors recently adopted a permanent land-clearing burn ban in Kitsap County. Similar bans were imposed last summer in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.
"The Legislature has determined that outdoor burning is a health hazard," said Jim Nolan, Puget Sound Clean Air Agency director of compliance.
The permanent ban will go into effect Sept. 1 and means the outdoor burning of trees, stumps, shrubbery or other natural vegetation from land-clearing projects is prohibited.
"These are the large fires used mainly to clear developments," Nolan said. "Residential burning is a whole different animal."
Commercial property developers, residential property owners clearing land for building and contractors who clear and grade land are those typically affected by the burn ban.
The ban does not apply to recreational fires (campfires), agricultural burning, silvicultural fires or yard waste fires that are in compliance with local fire district requirements.
Alternatives to land-clearing burning are considered reasonably priced, according to Nolan.
"We're sort of at an all-time low for the cost of disposal for materials," he said.
Alternatives include on-site chipping and removal and off-site wood waste recycling.
The cost of hauling wood waste to local chipping and composting facilities is estimated by local contractors at $4,000 to $5,000.
"We thought these estimates were quite credible," Nolan said.
The permanent land-clearing burn ban was imposed to reduce smoke. Wood smoke can cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems, including premature death.
"We do get a fair amount of calls about smoke," said Jan Brower, Kitsap County Health District solid and hazardous waste program manager.
Brower said the gases and fine particles in smoke can cause irritation of eyes and lungs and may exasperate conditions and cause early death for people with chronic heart and lung diseases.
Local fire departments respond to illegal burning complaints and if someone is found burning land-clearing debris, the case may be referred to Puget Sound Clean Air Agency enforcement officers.
"We don't transfer every single complaint we get to Clean Air," North Kitsap Fire & Rescue Chief Dan Smith said.
The land-clearing burn ban does not make county regulations the same as those adopted by Kitsap cities, according to Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue spokeswoman Theresa MacLennan.
"There are city regulations, UGA regulations, high density regulations and non-attainment area regulations," she said. "The fire districts are working on uniformity, but we're not there yet."
For a list of chipping and composting facilities, visit the Kitsap County Public Works Solid Waste Division Web site at www.kitsapgov.com/sw.