smokey sky over city and smoke coming from a house chimney

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We Have a Wintertime Air Pollution Problem

During fall and winter, Multnomah County sees a rise in pollution that comes from wood smoke. Wood smoke from home heating accounts for more than half of our fine particle pollution on the average winter day. These pollutants are harmful to human health.

Our air must meet federal standards for fine particle pollution under the Clean Air Act. Although we currently meet these standards, we are at risk for violating federal law if we have too many days of unhealthy air.

Multnomah County and Oregon DEQ are working with the community to figure out the best way to improve our air quality.

If we don’t clean up our air, we’ll face several issues:

  • Health impacts - The longer we wait to clean up our air, the longer we’ll all be breathing unhealthy levels of pollution. Health effects of wood smoke»
  • Economic impacts - Federal funding for transportation (highway) projects could be at risk. Public dollars would be needed to clean up our air.
  • Business impacts - Restrictions placed on large businesses located in Multnomah County, which may push jobs outside our community.

Ways to Reduce Wood Smoke

Check air quality

Remember, NEVER heat your home using a gas oven, kerosene heater, camping stove or BBQ. Using space heaters as your main heating source is also unsafe.

Replace equipment

wood stove

  • Uncertified wood stoves and inserts create twice as much air pollution as EPA-certified stoves. Switching to a certified device will help reduce the amount of fuel needed to maintain enough heat in your home.
  • Use Oregon’s Residential Energy Tax Credit to help pay for a new wood or pellet stove. The credit is also good for gas fireplaces, furnaces and heat pumps.

Burn cleaner

stacked wood

  • Burn only dry, split, well-seasoned wood. Properly seasoned wood is darker, weighs less, and sounds hollow when hit against another piece of wood.
  • Keep wood covered and off the ground. Store it at least 12 months before burning.
  • Build small, hot fires
  • Never burn trash or construction debris such as treated wood, painted wood or particle board. They make toxic smoke and can damage your stove.

I Burn Wood Because It’s Cheaper

Natural gas, electric and other cleaner-burning devices are typically more efficient and less expensive than using wood to heat your home.

You can help make your home warmer by adding insulation and sealing drafts around doors and windows.

You can also use the Oregon Residential Energy Tax Credit to help pay for energy upgrades such furnaces, heat pumps and gas fireplaces. This credit will end on December 31, 2017.

If you're having trouble with heating bills, fixing your furnace or weatherizing your home or apartment, there may be help available. Call 211 for more info.

Helpful Resources


Contact Matt Hoffman, Air Pollution Policy Coordinator