New rule curbs wood-burning on worst air quality days of winter

February 13, 2018

An ordinance limiting the use of wood-burning stoves and fireplaces on the worst air quality days of winter went into effect in Multnomah County over the weekend, in hopes of remaining below federal limits on certain air pollutants and protecting people’s health.

wood smoke advisory, green means ok to burn

From Oct. 1 through March 1 each year, health officials will conduct forecasting to identify poor air quality days. When conditions suggest an upcoming inversion coupled with other weather conditions, they might issue a yellow alert recommending residents 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.

The ordinance exempts:

  • Low-income households

  • Those whose sole source of heat is a wood stove or fireplace

  • 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 or DEQ-certified stove rated to emit no more than 2.5 grams of particulate pollution per hour

Local governments across Oregon including Washington County, Eugene, Oakridge, Grants Pass, Medford, Klamath Falls and Pendleton have implemented similar rules, intended to curb emissions of particulate matter. Multnomah County Health Department officials estimate conditions will meet the standards for red alerts an average of three to five days per year.

Enforcement will be complaint-driven, and any household that fails to be in compliance will receive a written warning with educational materials. Households receive two warnings before being subject to potential fines. However, Matt Hoffman, who coordinates air pollution policy for the Health Department, said no one will be fined this season.

“We’ll be using this year as an opportunity to educate folks about the ordinance and why it’s important for public health and regulatory compliance,” Hoffman said. “If we can take minor common sense measures to reduce particle pollution, we can protect public health and prevent the federal government from imposing more stringent rules without our say.”

Woodsmoke Complaint Line: 503-988-0035 or email