January 12, 2018

The Board of Commissioners Thursday adopted an ordinance that limits the use of wood-burning stoves and fireplaces on rare days from October through February when air is stagnant and pollution builds over the county.

Commissioner Sharon Meieran, who represents residents in the hills west of Portland, co-sponsored the wood smoke ordinance.
Commissioner Sharon Meieran, who represents residents in the hills west of Portland, co-sponsored the wood smoke ordinance.

During these months, health officials will conduct forecasting with the National Weather Service and neighboring jurisdictions to identify poor air quality days. When conditions suggest an upcoming inversion as well as other weather conditions, they might issue a yellow alert recommending residents voluntarily refrain from burning, or a red alert that prohibits burning for most people.

A red alert will trigger a 24 hour-long no-burn notice to residents across Multnomah County. Health officials will notify community members through PublicAlerts, Facebook and Twitter, on the county website, local media and partnerships with local governments.

Health officials estimate conditions will meet the standards for red alerts, an average of three to five days per year. The goal is that timely curtailments will keep the region in compliance with federal air quality standards set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

“We don’t expect there will be a lot of days,” Environmental Health Director Jae Douglas told the board Thursday. “But when we are this close to violating national air quality standards, we really must take some action.”

Sponsored by commissioners Sharon Meieran and Jessica Vega Pederson, the ordinance also recognizes how critical wood heat is for certain people and situations. The ordinance exempts:

Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson, who represents mid-county, co-sponsored the ordinance along with Commissioner Sharon Meieran.
Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson, who represents mid-county, co-sponsored the ordinance along with Commissioner Sharon Meieran.

  • Low-income households.

  • Those whose sole source of heat is wood stoves.

  • Households that burn wood a necessary supplement to cleaner fuels.

  • Burning during emergency conditions.

  • Burning when other sources of heat are temporarily not functioning.

  • Any EPA-certified stove rated to emit no more than 2.5 grams of particle pollution per hour.

Commissioner Lori Stegmann thanked fellow board members for amending the original draft ordinance to address concerns that came from her constituents in east Multnomah County, where residents are more likely to use wood as a necessary supplement to electric heat.

“I appreciate you working so hard and making sure this is a good ordinance that people can really get behind,” she said.