Outdoor burn ban and smoky skies over Blaine

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All outdoor burning in unincorporated areas of Whatcom County is prohibited until further notice under a September 9 burn ban from the Whatcom County Fire Marshal’s Office. This includes yard debris, land-clearing and recreational fires.

Propane and charcoal barbecues are allowed, along with propane fire pits without solid wood-burning material, according to the Whatcom County Fire Marshal’s Office. Charcoal and ash need to be thrown away in a metal container and doused in water and placed a minimum of 10 feet from any buildings or trees for three days. Wood-burning fire pits are not allowed.

Violations carry a minimum $250 fine.

The Northwest Clean Air Agency (NWCAA) also called for a stage 2 air quality burn ban in Whatcom, Skagit and Island counties on September 9. The ban will last until further notice.

“Once the air has cleared, we will remove the air quality burn ban,” NWCAA executive director Mark Buford in the press release. “But the fire safety burn bans will remain in place until fire officials determine that fire danger has passed.”

On September 10, governor Jay Inslee issued a proclamation to give monetary assistance to people affected by the wildfires. The funds are provided through the Department of Social and Health Services’ Family Emergency Assistance Program.

Since September 7, over 626,982 acres have burned in Washington, creating the second worst fire season in the state’s history, according to the governor’s office.

The Washington Department of Natural Resources placed a burn ban until September 30 on all forest land where the department manages fire protection.

September 16 air quality in upper Whatcom County was categorized as “unhealthy,” according to data from the Washington Department of Ecology. Air quality was forecast to gradually improve last weekend and as of September 16, the cleanest air quality in the state was “moderate.” Air quality predominately ranged from “unhealthy” to “very unhealthy” as of September 16, with little anticipated improvement until at least Friday, September 18, the Department of Ecology said on September 15.

Washington state secretary of health John Wiesman said in a department of health press release that cloth face masks don’t provide protection from the smoke but remain important for reducing the spread of Covid-19.

The Washington Department of Health recommends residents keep windows and doors closed, and recirculate air conditioners. The department also said to avoid burning candles, smoking, broiling and frying foods, and vacuuming during this time to reduce indoor pollution.

For more information, visit the Whatcom County Burn Information Line at 360/778-5903. To report an illegal burn or excessive smoke, call the Northwest Clean Air Agency at 360/428-1617. Visit lar.wsu.edu/airpact for air quality forecasting.

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