Benton Clean Air Agency

Burn Decision & UGA Map



Determine whether or not you may burn at your location on residential burn days

Please enter your address to determine whether you are in an urban growth area of Benton County

Notices of Violation

If I am caught burning illegally, what will happen?

Enforcement actions usually begin once the BCAA receives complaints about illegal burning taking place. One of our inspectors is sent to the site to judge the severity of the violation and to document what is going on. The Inspector will try to locate the responsible individual or company and make them aware of the violations. At this point, the fire is required to be extinguished. After the Inspector finishes at the site, one of two things happens, either a warning letter or a Notice of Violation (NOV) is issued.

Warning letters are sent out if the violation was relatively minor or if the burner was uninformed. Once a warning letter is sent, the BCAA generally considers the case closed. If there are further violations after an individual or company has received a warning letter, the enforcement action may increase to an NOV, which is a much firmer form of enforcement.

The NOV is an official enforcement action and should be taken very seriously. Essentially the NOV is a ticket that informs the burner of the laws that were violated and of the Inspector’s findings at the site. The NOV starts the process of a formal case against the burner and cannot be appealed.Thirty days after the burner receives the NOV, the BCAA may assess a penalty in another formal document called a Notice of Penalty (NOP). According to Washington State law, penalties of up to $10,000 per violation per day may be assessed. For example, burning garbage in the city limits one a no-burn day with no mean to put the fire out equates to three violations or a maximum of $30,000 fine. Generally, though the BCAA does not fine to the greatest extent of the law and actual fines can be much lower.

I have received a “Notice of Violation”. What does it mean and what do I do now?

If you have received a Notice of Violation (NOV), it means that you have violated one or more air quality regulations. The NOV serves as official notice of the laws that were violated and of the Inspector’s report on the situation. It is important that you read the NOV very carefully. The NOV cannot be appealed. However, you may send written documentation to the BCAA indicating your understanding of the situation.

Thirty days after you receive your NOV, you may receive a Notice of Penalty (NOP). The NOP is the official notice of a fine being levied against you. You may or may not receive an NOP, as one is assigned on a case-by-case basis. The NOP is appealable and several options are presented in the NOP documentation. Again, you should read the documentation very carefully.

If you have any questions, please contact BCAA.

I have received a “Notice of Penalty”. What does it mean and what do I do now?

if you have received a Notice of Penalty (NOP), it means that thirty days have passed since you received the Notice of Violation (NOV). The NOP is the official notice of a fine being levied against you. The NOP is appealable and several options are presented in the NOP documentation. Again, you should read the documentation very carefully.

Option 1: Pay the fine in full. If you take option 1, your full payment is due within 30 days.

Option 2: Consent Order (CO). (Note: A consent order may or may not be available.) The CO represents a reduced penalty that may be paid in lieu of full payment if you do not commit a similar violation within the next year. By taking the CO, you forfeit the other avenues of mitigation and appeal. Once the paperwork has been filed and signed and the reduced penalty paid (within 30 days), the BCAA considered the case closed. However, if the conditions of the CO are not adhered to, for example a similar future violation within a year, the original penalty is reinstated and an additional NOV and NOP may be issued.

Option 3: Application for Relief of Penalty (ARP). If you feel that the penalty is unjustified and wish to contest the penalty this is the option to take. It is an opportunity to tell your recollection of the events that lead to the NOV. Note, however, that if a reduction of penalty is granted, it will not be less than that offered on the CO. The ARP must be filed within 15 days.

Option 4: Appeal to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board (PCHB).
This is your opportunity to have a day in court. The PCHB is a state level hearing board that will hear the your case. The PCHB has the power to overturn the penalty issued by the BCAA. However, if you choose this option, the PCHB will be considering the full amount of the penalty, not the amount listed in the CO. In most cases, the PCHB does not lower the penalty below that offered on the CO.

If you have any questions about your NOP or your legal options, please contact BCAA.

Also note that there are several timed deadlines that you should follow. Failure to meet specific deadlines nullifies certain avenues of appeal.

Fire Protection Districts

A link to the Fire Protection District Map is here.

City/Region Fire District Phone #
Benton City BCFPD #2 509-588-3212
Benton County (East) BCFPD #1 509-734-9100
Benton County (West) BCFPD #5 509-786-1723
Finley BCFPD #1 509-734-9100
Kennewick Fire Department 509-585-4230
Patterson BCFPD #6 509-875-2029
Plymouth BCFPD #6 509-875-2029
Prosser BCFPD #3 509-786-3873
Prosser (South) BCFPD #5 509-786-1723
Richland Fire Department 509-942-7550
West Richland BCFPD #4 509-967-2945


Smoke Opacity

Smoke Opacity

State law prohibits the generation of excessive chimney smoke. Except for brief periods during start-up and refueling, smoke is in violation when it obscures objects viewed through it by more than 20%.

Generation of smoke densities greater than 20% could result in fines from air pollution control officials. Stoves operated with dry wood and a generous air supply produce less smoke and more heat.

Woodstoves and Fireplaces

Clean Home Heating

Many people don’t think of the smoke from their wood stove or fireplace as air pollution. Some people even like the smell of wood smoke. But wood smoke is one of the main sources of air pollution in Washington.

Wood smoke contains fine particles, PM 2.5, which are associated with serious health effects, as the tiny size of these pollutants allows them to be easily inhaled, bypassing the immune system and proceeding deep into your lungs, where they can cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems, including premature death.

In winter, more than half of Washington’s fine particle air pollution comes from the homes being heated using wood. Wood stoves, fireplaces and other wood-burning devices put out hundreds of times more air pollution than other sources of heat such as natural gas, propane, oil or electricity.

Video on How to Select a New Stove for Home Heat

Video on How to Operate Your Wood Stove More Efficiently

The fire: Give it air!

The right amount of air gives you a hotter fire and more complete combustion. That translates to more heat from your wood and less smoke and pollution. Here are some cleaner burning tips:

  • Build small, hot fires. Don’t add too much fuel at one time.
  • Step outside and check the chimney or flue. If you can see smoke, your fire may need more air.
  • Read and follow the stove manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Don’t “bank” the stove full of wood and damper down the air supply. This wastes wood, produces much air pollution, promotes accumulation of creosote (which requires more frequent cleaning and can lead to chimney fires) and yields very little heat. Half-full is adequate; it provides enough air space for efficient combustion.
  • Don’t damper down too far. Allow enough air to reach the wood. This varies among models and kinds of stoves.
  • Make sure your stove is the right size for your home. Too large a stove will overheat your living space. You’ll want to damper down. This causes added pollution and wastes wood.
  • Don’t burn in moderate temperatures. You’ll want to damper down, which causes more pollution and wastes wood.
  • Don’t burn when air currents carry your smoke to your neighbor’s yard or house.
  • Only burn dry, seasoned firewood, never garbage. Burning garbage is illegal in the state of Washington and creates a greater health hazard.

The fuel: keep it dry!

Wood can seem dry and still contain plenty of water, up to 50 percent. The moisture in wood makes the fire give off more smoke. On the other hand, dry wood can provide up to 44 percent more heat. It is against state law to burn wood with more than 20 percent moisture content in fireplaces or wood stoves.

Two things work very well at making sure your wood is dry enough: time and cover. Whether you buy wood or harvest your own, follow these tips to get it fire-ready:

  • Split it. The wood will dry best and burn most efficiently if the pieces are three and one-half to six inches in diameter.
  • Cover it. Protect the wood from rain and weather. Stack it loosely-in layers of alternating directions- to allow plenty of air circulation. Store it at least six inches off the ground.
  • Give it a year. Wood that has been split, dried and stored under cover for at least one year usually meets the 20 percent moisture content requirement.

State law does not regulate the dryness of any wood sold. If the seller states that the wood is dry or seasoned, consider it a claim; make sure for yourself. You—and not the seller—are responsible for the dryness of the wood you put on your fire.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I burn in my woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue on a “no burn day”?

Yes. Woodstove, fireplace, and barbecue use is unrestricted at all times. The burn day decision does not apply to these devices. The only time when use is restricted is during a statewide air pollution episode, which occurs rarely.

Can I burn paper or garbage in my woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue?

Washington State law prohibits the burning of paper, except that which is necessary to start the fire. Burning large amounts of paper is potentially very dangerous as often large burning embers exit the chimney and can cause fires outside the home. The burning of garbage is strictly prohibited by State law.

How do I know if I am burning correctly in my woodstove or fireplace?

Your woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue must be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Also, the amount of smoke produces by these devices must be minimized. The smoke coming out of your chimney should be almost colorless and thin. Thick, white or black smoke indicates that your fire is not receiving enough air. Woodstoves, fireplaces, and barbecues should be used in such a way as to minimize the impact on neighbors. Here are some additional tips:

  • Burn only dry fuel. Moist wood gives off more smoke and may produce up to 44% less heat.
  • Ideally, burn wood that has been split and dried for one year.
  • Never burn painted, stained or treated wood, colored newsprint, plastic, cardboard, garbage, diapers or magazines.
  • Twenty minutes after starting your fire, check your chimney for smoke. If you see any smoke, it probably exceeds the legal limit. Increase air to the fire for cleaner burning.
  • Burn small hot fires and allow plenty of air to reach the fire. Avoid excessive dampening to extend the duration of the burn, see The Myth of Air-Starved Burning below.
  • Never allow the fire to smolder. Smoldering fires pollute, are inefficient and are a fire hazard.

One myth, which is perhaps the most damaging to air quality and potentially damaging to health and safety, is that there are benefits to starving a wood stove for adequate combustion of air. A fire starved for air is excessively smoky because of incomplete combustion and therefore produces more unburned particulates and gaseous air pollutants than a hot fire with adequate air. Poor combustion also promotes the buildup of creosote in chimneys posing a fire hazard. Carbon monoxide from incomplete combustion can also buildup inside houses posing a direct threat of death by asphyxiation.

This myth had its origin in the 1970’s energy crisis when the popularity of wood stoves increased. Many poorly designed stoves have been marketed that are not air-tight and otherwise have poor combustion air controls. Manufacturers may have recommended, or owners may have discovered, the technique of severely restricting air flow to compensate for poor design. In addition, marginal economics and high labor requirements of wood burning have made conservation of wood a priority, which makes reducing wood consumption yet another excuse for starving wood stove fires for air.

Burning of uncured wood with moisture contents over 20% compounds the problems of poor combustion from air-starved fires by promoting even greater production of air pollutants and creosote. Burning high moisture wood decreases the usable energy from the wood because heat from burning is diverted into evaporating the water rather than heating the air as desired.

What are some of health effects from breathing smoke from woodstove, fireplaces or barbecues?*

Breathing air containing wood smoke can:

  • reduce lung function, especially in children;
  • increase severity of existing lung disease such as asthma, emphysema, pneumonia and bronchitis;
  • aggravate heart disease;
  • increase susceptibility to lower respiratory diseases;
  • irritate eyes, lungs, throat and sinuses;
  • trigger headaches and allergies.

Those at greatest health risk from wood smoke include:

  • fetuses, infants and children;
  • people with lung, heart, circulatory diseases or allergies;
  • the elderly;
  • cigarette smokers and ex-smokers.

Contents of wood smoke:

There are many components to wood smoke that can cause risk to your health. These compounds include:

  • carbon monoxide, fatal in high concentrations;
  • formaldehyde, a possible cause of human cancer;
  • organic gases which may interfere with lung function;
  • nitrogen oxides, linked to hardening of the arteries;
  • tiny smoke particles that lodge in the lungs causing structural damage. These tiny particles, or PM10, are less than 10 microns wide, or about 1/7 the diameter of a human hair.

What if my neighbor’s woodstove or fireplace is producing a strong, foul odor?

The primary cause of foul odors from woodstoves and fireplaces is the burning of green wood. Because green wood contains so much water, it does not burn efficiently and essentially just smolders. Smoldering fires are not hot enough to destroy the bulk of the odors. The solution to such a problem is to burn well-seasoned, dry wood in a hot fire, with lots of air. If you are bothered by a neighbor’s smoke, you should contact the BCAA office or file a complaint

What are the restrictions on buying or selling a used woodstove or fireplace in Benton County?

Since July 1, 1992, only EPA certified wood stoves and fireplace inserts may be legally sold or installed in Washington. There should be a metal tag permanently affixed to the device that will indicate EPA certification. According to Washington State law and BCAA Regulation 1, it is illegal to advertise to sell, offer to sell, sell, bargain, exchange, or give away an uninstalled used uncertified fireplace or woodstove. If you have any questions, please contact the BCAA.

A list of EPA certified woodstoves can be found at the Washington State Department of Ecology Air Program website

Alternatives to Outdoor Burning

Non-Burning Alternatives are available and many residents choose to chip or compost this material to use in their yard and garden. Others may haul their “clean green” to a local recycling transfer station or to a private collection company.

Instead of burning your yard debris, why not try an alternative. The following is a list of several that are available.

Composting

Want bigger, brighter, fuller flowers and county-fair-sized vegetables? Try composting your garden and yard debris. Nothing beats adding compost for soil enrichment. And if you think composting is just a fad of the ’90s, here’s and interesting fact: a Roman statesman named Marcus Cato introduced composting as a way to build up the soil of ancient Rome more that 2,000 years ago. In-the-know gardeners will tell you that nothing makes their gardens grow like a great homemade compost. Creating a balance of wet, “green” materials (such as grass clippings, certain food scraps, and various kinds of manure and dry, “brown” materials (the dry leaves and woody materials that you might previously burned!) creates the perfect compost. The “browns” are really carbon-rich materials and the “greens” are nitrogen-rich products that work together with microbes to build a soil-enriching compost for your garden. Need some more convincing reasons to compost?

Here’s a list of some of the great benefits of composting:

  • Composting is a perfect alternative to open (backyard) burning
  • Composting saves space in the landfill
  • Composing enriches the soil and turns out better plants and vegetables
  • Composting is convenient. Just think, the time and energy you now expend to bag and haul all your garden debris to the trash can, landfill, or transfer station can be turned into a useful product.
  • Composting saves money (less money spent on leaf bags, fertilizers, mulch, bagged compost, peat moss, or other soil enhancements).

For more information on backyard composting, call the Washington State University Cooperative Extension or the Benton County Solid Waste Department (see Resources below) or check out the BCAA Composting flier by clicking the burning tab at the top of the page and then scrolling to the bottom.

Make Your Own Mulch

Mulch is a protective covering for your plants, shrubs, and trees that truly benefits your garden. When it’s spread in garden beds or under shrubs and trees, mulch reduces evaporation, maintains even soil temperature, prevent erosion, controls weeds, and enriches the soil. You can make your own mulch by chipping “brown: or carbon-rich yard debris. Call the Washington State Cooperative Extension or the Benton County Solid Waste Department (see Resources below).

You can find out more information by viewing the BCAA Mulching flier by clicking the burning tab at the top of the page and then scrolling to the bottom.

Use a Mulching Mover for a Healthy Lawn

If you leave “mulched” grass on your lawn instead of burning the clippings, you’re doing your grass, yourself, and the environment a favor. Don’t worry, because this finely chopped grass has a temporary mulching effect but rapidly decomposes to return valuable nutrients to the soil. Together these benefits of a mulching mower help your lawn hold water and reduce fertilizer costs. Over time, the soils in our hot, dry climate become healthier simply from the added organic matter. Perhaps the best benefit is that you spend less time handling grass clippings. You can buy a mulching mower for the same cost as comparable non-mulching mowers and some models even have a mulch/no mulch/bagging option.

Chipping

Large quantities of woody vegetative material from yards, gardens, other landscaping features, or land- clearing can be turned into a useful product. The resulting wood chips can be used for a number of purposes. For more information, check out the BCAA Chipping flier by clicking the burning tab at the top of the page and then scrolling to the bottom.

Landscape Management

In our region, most people prefer irrigated lawns with trees, shrubs and grass for the benefits they provide: cooling, fire protection, and aesthetic environment. If you can incorporate some of the following ideas into your landscaping, you may lessen your yard debris:

Reduce or limit the number of trees and shrubs you plant

  • Plant varieties that minimize debris
  • Plant low-residue plant and native varieties that thrive in our grow zone
  • Consider planting a xeriscape – an urban landscape that decreases yard waste and conserves water as well. In xeriscapes, native or arid-zone adapted plants produce minimum residue and rely on natural rainfall only.

Use the Landfill

Disposing of your yard debris in a landfill is also an alternative to burning. This is especially true for people who can’t take advantage of composting, making mulch, mulching mowers, or installing low-residue landscaping. In other parts of the state, landfill space is at a premium, but in our region, landfill space is not currently a concern. However, disposing as recyclable yard debris in the landfill is an option that should be used only as necessary as a substitute for open burning.

Resources

Washington State University Cooperative Extension
Master Gardener Program
Tri-Cities (509) 735-3551
Prosser (509) 786-2226

Benton County Solid Waste Department
Tri-Cities (509)783-1310 ext 5682
Prosser (509)786-5611

City of Richland
Environmental Education Coordinator
505 Swift Blvd, Richland, WA 99352
(509) 942-7730

City of Kennewick
Solid Waste Environmental Division
210 W 6th Ave, Kennewick, WA 99336
(509) 585-4317

Burning Detail Questions

... tumbleweeds blown on to my property?

Tumbleweeds that have been blown on to your property can be burned at any time, regardless of the burn day and regardless of whether you are inside or outside the Urban Growth Area (UGA). However, only the tumbleweeds can be burned, any other vegetative material to be burned is subject to the rules specific to your location.

... tumbleweeds that are growing on my property?

If the tumbleweeds are growing on your property, you cannot burn them in place.

If tumbleweeds are actually growing on your property, you must obtain a special burn permit in order to burn the tumblewweds in-place. Be aware that therer is a fee charged for a special burn permit. You may want to consider an alternative to burning such as mulching, mowing, or composting. However, you may also want to try to control the weeds before they become a problem by mowing or using a commercial herbicide. For more information you can download a flyer on tumbleweed burning here (PDF).

... in a woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue?

At the present time, in Benton County, there are no restrictions on when you can use your woodstove, barbecue, or fireplace. However, you must burn properly to minimize the impact of smoke on your neighbors.

... for recreation (campfire or bonfire)?

As of April 13, 2000, the definition and rules about recreational fires have changed. Recreational fire means [by definition] cooking fires, campfires, and bonfires using charcoal or firewood that occur in designated areas or on private property for cooking or pleasure purposes (WAC 173-425-030). Fires used for debris disposal are not considered recreational fires. For more information you can download a flyer on recreational fires here (PDF).

Inside the UGA: Recreational fires that are larger than three feet in diameter and two feet high require a permit. Permit conditions may limit the date and time burning is allowed. Recreational fires smaller than 3’x2’ are allowed at any time, regardless of the “burn day”, and do not require a permit.

Outside the UGA: Recreational fires are allowed at any time and do not require a permit.

... in a burn barrel?

As of April 13, 2000, the use of the traditional metal burn barrel is illegal throughout the State. This was done primarily to make the state rule consistent with the Uniform Fire Code.

If you feel that you must use a system similar to the burn barrel, waste disposal is still allowed in an outdoor burning device. This device must be constructed of concrete or masonry with a completely enclosed combustion chamber and a permanently attached iron spark arrester (max 1/2 inch holes). The device can only be used to dispose of natural vegetative debris. Paper, garbage, wood products, and other prohibited materials are illegal to burn.

... construction debris on my property?

The burning of construction debris is prohibited by state law, WAC 173-425-050(2), and by BCAA Regulation 1 Article 5 Section 5.02E. Because of the significant amount of prohibited materials found in construction fires of the past, BCAA Regulation 1 strictly prohibits any fire from occurring on a construction site. This includes the burning of vegetative debris and the burning of tumbleweeds. Burning illegally on a construction site will likely result in a violation and fine.

... on my small/hobby orchard?

Small hobby farms and small orchards are also subject to burning rules and regulations. If the farm or orchard sells what it produces and files a Schedule F with its income taxes, the farm is considered to be a commercial operation and is subject to the agricultural burning rules. All other farms and orchards are considered to be non-commercial. As with residential burning of yard waste, the location of the property is important.

Because outdoor burning have been substantially banned within the UGA, there are no “burn days” per se that farms and orchards may use for waste disposal. The only option available for farms and orchards within the UGA is to apply for a Special Burning Permit. Please contact us for information and details.

Outside the UGA, a farm or orchard can burn its dry, natural vegetation as long as there is a burn day. Burn day status is available by calling 946-4489. However, the farm cannot clear fields and steps must be taken to minimize the impact of the smoke on neighbors. Failure to comply with these additional restrictions could result in enforcement action.

If there are any questions concerning burning on hobby farms and orchards, please contact us.

... on a lot or area that is a fire hazard?

Brush and weeds on a piece of property can be considered a fire hazard. However, you will need to have your local fire department come to your property and declare it a fire hazard. In addition, the fire department must agree that burning the material would be the safest way to eliminate the hazard; in most cases alternatives, such as mowing, are equally effective. If the fire department determines that the fire hazard would be reduced by burning, then the BCAA will issue a permit to burn the material.

Frequently Asked Questions about Outdoor Burning

What are some alternatives to burning?

Information on Alternatives to Burning is here.

My residence is inside the Urban Growth Area (UGA) of Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Prosser, or Benton City, can I burn?

The Washington Administrative Code (WAC) required that residential and land clearing burning in urban growth areas of cities larger than 5,000 be banned as of January 1, 2001. For cities smaller than 5,000, such as Benton City, outdoor burning was allowed until January 1, 2004. However, as of January 1, burning is now banned in the UGA of Benton City as well. Recent changes in the State law have further defined what types of burning can or cannot take place within the urban growth areas. Based on these changes, the following is a summary list of the applicable rules for burning in the urban growth areas of Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Prosser, and Benton City.

If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the Urban Growth Area (UGA), you may search your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304 .

PROHIBITED

  • burning yard debris (leaves, branches, etc.) at your property
  • transferring material from Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Prosser, or Benton City to outside the UGA for the purpose of burning the material
  • the use of burn barrels
  • burning for land-clearing purposes
  • burning tumbleweeds that are growing on your property
  • burning garbage, dead animals, asphalt, petroleum products, paints, rubber products, plastics, paper (other than what is necessary to start the fire), cardboard, treated wood, construction debris, metal, or any substance (other than natural vegetation) which when burned releases toxic emissions, dense smoke, or odors.” (WAC 173-425-050(2))

ALLOWED WITH A PERMIT

  • burning a recreational fire greater than 3 feet in diameter.

ALLOWED WITHOUT A PERMIT

  • burning a recreational fire that is less than 3 feet in diameter
  • burning tumbleweeds that blew on to your property

Can I burn? My residence is outside the Urban Growth Area.

If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the UGA, you may search your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304.

If you have confirmed that your residence is outside of the urban growth area, you may burn under the residential burning rules.

In 1995, the Washington State legislature changed some of the burning rules and how they were applied in different parts of the State. For those residents outside of the UGA, the following rules apply:

PROHIBITED

  • burning garbage, dead animals, asphalt, petroleum products, paints, rubber products, plastics, paper (other than what is necessary to start the fire), cardboard, treated wood, construction debris, metal, or any substance (other than natural vegetation) which when burned releases toxic emissions, dense smoke, or odors.” (WAC 173-425-050(2))

PROHIBITED AS OF JAN 1, 2001

  • the use of burn barrels

ALLOWED ON A BURN DAY You must have a burn day before you may burn. The burn message, updated by 9 AM, is 509-783-6198.

  • Only material generated at your residence can be burned.
  • Only dry, natural vegetation can be burned. Burning paper (other than enough to start fire), plastic, lumber, building debris, and garbage is strictly prohibited.
  • Someone must be in attendance of the fire at all times and be able to put out the fire if necessary.
  • No fires are allowed within 50 feet of any flammable structure.
  • The pile size is limited to 4 ft by 4 ft by 3 ft high.
  • Only one pile can be burned at a time. Continually feeding material into one fire is OK.
  • The fire must be extinguished if it creates a nuisance.
  • You can only burn at your residential property or the property owner’s permission must be obtained prior to burning.
  • Your fire must be completely extinguished by the end of the burn day.

ALLOWED WITH A PERMIT

  • burning for weed abatement (including tumbleweeds growing on your property)
  • burning a recreational fire greater than 3 feet in diameter.

What is an “Urban Growth Area” and how do I know if my residence is inside or outside?

The applicable open burning regulations depend upon where the property is located with respect to the “Urban Growth Area”, or UGA. The urban growth area (UGA) is defined by a line that the incorporated cities (Richland, Kennewick, West Richland, Benton City, and Prosser) expect to grow into during the next 20 years. The UGA includes all the city limits, the “islands” of County within the cities, and some parts of County land immediately adjacent to the city limits. Those properties that lie inside of this boundary have different burning rules than those properties lying outside the boundary. If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the UGA, you may search for your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304.

Urban Growth Area Maps are here.

I can’t meet some or all of the burn rules, is there another way I can burn legally?

Many of the burn rules are, in many cases, restrictive by design. By creating these rules, the State can reduce the amount of burning taking place in the urban areas, reducing both air pollution and fire risk. However, there are circumstances where the BCAA can allow an individual or company to burn outside of these rules.

A Special Burn Permit may be issued under specific circumstances. The permit has an associated fee that is assessed in two parts. First, there is a $75 non-refundable application fee that must accompany the written application. This allows the BCAA Inspector to process the application and if necessary, inspect the materials to be burned prior to burning. The application can either be accepted or rejected at this point. If accepted, there is an additional charge of no more than $8.50 per cubic yard of material to be burned. The fees must be paid within 30 days of the permit being issued. A permit is issued that is specific to the applicant’s type of burning. The permit conditions often will allow more “burn days” than would be available under the urban are spring and fall burn windows.

If you would like to apply for a Special Burn Permit, the application is Special Burn Permit Request along with the fee, to the BCAA. If you have any questions, please contact us.

How does the BCAA determine whether or not to allow a “burn day”?

Information on how the daily burn decision is made is here.

“What about burning” answers to these questions are found here:*

  • tumbleweeds blown on to my property?
  • tumbleweeds that are growing on my property?
  • in a woodstove, barbecue, or fireplace?
  • for recreation (campfire or bonfire)?
  • in a burn barrel?
  • construction debris on my property?
  • on my small/hobby orchard?
  • on a lot or area that is a fire hazard?

How do I build a good, hot fire, that does not produce a lot of smoke? The Boy Scouts of America recommend when burning a fire:

1. Use dry, seasoned wood. Do not burn material that has just been cut or has been soaked by moisture. 2. Use a mixture of material of different sizes and thickness. Start with small tinder: like dry moss or really dry pine needles. Next, put kindling into the fire. Kindling are small pieces of wood no larger than the width of one of your fingers. Arrange your third and last material, the “fuel” (larger material), in a teepee type style. Put a break in the pattern, like a door to the teepee, facing into the wind. This break allows the breeze to blow into the fire and creates a hotter, more efficient fire. 3. Light your fire with matches, no fuel (gasoline, lighter fluid, etc.) should be necessary, through the door of the teepee. Start by lighting the tinder, the tinder will then catch the remaining material on fire. Add material as the fire burns hot and quickly.

My property is zoned agriculture. Do I follow the open burning rules or the agricultural burning rules?

State law views residential burning and agricultural burning as two separate issues, both with associated laws. In order to qualify an agricultural burn permit you must show evidence of agricultural activity taking place, usually in the form of supplying a copy of the IRS form Schedule F: Profit and Loss from Farming. Only those operations with proof of an agricultural operation will be issued an agricultural burn permit. The zoning regulations are local regulations and do not apply to burning applications. Areas which are zoned agriculture, but do not supply this proof, must comply with the general rule burn rules and the “burn days”.

Urban Growth Area Information

The applicable open burning regulations depend upon where the property is located with respect to the “Urban Growth Area”, or UGA. The urban growth area (UGA) is defined by a line that the incorporated cities (Richland, Kennewick, West Richland, Benton City, and Prosser) expect to grow into during the next 20 years. The UGA includes all the city limits, the “islands” of County within the cities, and some parts of County land immediately adjacent to the city limits. Those properties that lie inside of this boundary have different burning rules than those properties lying outside the boundary. If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the UGA, you can search your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304.

Regulations

Ecology’s rule on Outdoor Burning is here.

Daily Burn Decision

This information applies only to residents that live outside of the urban growth area. If you are inside the city limits of Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Benton City, or Prosser you are never allowed to burn yard debris at your residence. Also please note, that just because your property is outside of city limits, does not mean that you are also outside the urban growth area. To search whether your address is within an urban growth area, click here. You may also call the Benton County Planning Dept. or Benton Clean Air Agency for help determining whether you are inside or outside the urban growth area.

The Residential and Agricultural burn line numbers can be found in the top left corner of the page. Please call to find out the current conditions and restrictions. The daily burn decision is also available here.

The burn decision is made every morning prior to 9:00 am and is based on that day’s forecasted meteorological conditions. If necessary, the burn lines are updated to reflect the status of the burn decision. Should conditions unexpectedly change, the burn line may be updated as needed.

When making the burn decision, the BCAA utilizes information from the National Weather Service and a modeling forecast produced by the University of WA, in cooperation with the Dept of Ecology. This modeling forecast is called the “MM5” and gives a projected forecast of the atmospheric dispersion conditions, throughout the state, at different times throughout the day.

These tools are used uniformly throughout most of the state in making the daily agricultural burn decision. Forecasted wind speeds are not a primary factor in determining agricultural burn days in Benton County. Fire safety is the responsibility of the farmers. Wind warnings are given on the burn day message for surface wind speeds forecasted above 15 mph.

The residential burn decision is based on the same information used to make the agricultural burn decision. However, in consideration for fire safety and at the request of our local fire departments, wind speed is taken into consideration. When the surface wind speeds from the National Weather Service office in Pendleton, OR for the Columbia Basin are forecast to exceed 20 mph, residential burning will not be allowed. For forecasted surface wind speeds between 15 and 20 mph, a wind warning is issued.

For outdoor burning, the Benton Clean Air Agency allows burning generally only when dispersion conditions are forecasted to be good.

Bright sunny days are frequently not good smoke dispersion days and are characterized by high pressure systems. The latter characteristically has descending air masses, low mixing level ceilings, and little horizontal air movement. Known in meteorology as stable air masses, all the factors associated with these air masses combine to limit the both the volume and vertical mixing of near-surface air. Air pollutants emitted into the air under these conditions from any source, one of which may be outdoor burning, are effectively trapped and do not disperse by vertical mixing and horizontal transport at higher altitudes.

In contrast, low pressure weather systems are characterized by unstable air that is rising and frequently turbulent. Both vertical mixing with high elevation mixing levels and horizontal air movement very effectively dilute and disperse air pollutants emitted into the air.

Unfortunately, these meteorologically unstable air masses frequently have high wind speeds and gusty wind plus precipitation. High gusty wind conditions pose a fire safety hazard.

Outdoor Burning

Residential Burning Program

Under the residential burning program, only residents located outside of the Urban Growth Area are allowed to burn. Residents outside the UGA must still call the residential burn line to find out whether or not it is a burn day. The phone number is located at the top of the page, and is updated on a daily basis. You may also find the burn decision, here.

To search whether your address is within an Urban Growth Area of Benton County, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page.

If it is a burn day, and you are located outside of the UGA, the following burning rules apply:

  • Only dry natural vegetation may be burned
  • Only one pile at a time may be burned, and the pile must be extinguished before ingniting another
  • The pile must be no larger than 4 feet by 4 feet by 3 feet tall
  • The fire must be located 50 feet from all flamable structures
  • You must be in attendance of the fire at all times
  • You must not create a nuisance with the smoke from your fire
  • The use of burn barrels is prohibited

Failure to adhere to these rules may result in the issuance of a violation and/or fine.

Residents Inside The Urban Growth Area

Residents located inside the Urban Growth Area are not allowed to burn for disposal purposes.

The following types of burning are allowed inside the Urban Growth Area:

1. Burning of tumbleweeds that have blown on to your property using the following guidelines:
- You must call the burn line to see if tumbleweed burning has been banned due to high winds or fire safety
- You must not create a nuisance with the smoke
- You must be in attendance of the fire at all times
- The use of burn barrels is prohibited

2. Recreational Fires using the following guidelines:
- The fire must not be larger than 3 feet by 3 feet by 2 feet tall
- You must be in attendance at all times
- Only dry, seasoned firewood may be used; The fire cannot be used for disposal purposes
- The fire must be 50 feet from all flammable structures
- You must not create a nuisnace with the smoke
- The use of burn barrels is prohibited

3. Barbeques

4. Woodstoves

Failure to adhere to the guidelines listed above may result in a violation and/or fine.

Fees

A. An application fee for an agricultural burning permit shall be due and payable at the time of submittal of the application.

B. Upon approval of any agricultural burning permit application, the BCAA shall charge a fee at a maximum fee level as set by statute.

C. Minimum and variable fee levels are as follows:

  • Thirty seven dollars and fifty cents ($37.50) per calendar year per field burn based on burning up to ten acres or equivalent; Each additional acre is $3.75 per acre.
  • Eighty dollars ($80.00) for pile burning per calendar year per agricultural operation based on burning debris from up to 80 tons or equivalent; Each additional ton is $1.00 per ton.

The agricultural burning practices and research task force may set acreage equivalents, for non-field style agricultural burning practices, based on the amount of emissions relative to typical field burning emissions. Any acreage equivalents, established by rule, shall be used in determining fees. For agricultural burning conducted by irrigation or drainage districts, each mile of ditch (including banks) burned is calculated on an equivalent acreage basis.

For a complete breakdown of the fee schedule, click here.

Agricultural Burning Permits and Forms

Most commercial burning of agricultural fields or for agricultural purposes requires a permit from the BCAA.

Agricultural Permit is required for ..

  • Orchard or vineyard takeout
  • Vineyard prunings
  • Disease or weed control
  • Residue removal
  • Research/demonstration project
  • Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) or renovation purposes
  • “Flaming” of hop roots

Agricultural Permit is not required* for ..

  • Orchard prunings
  • Natural vegetation along fencelines, irrigation canals, or drainage ditches.
  • Tumbleweeds

*NOTE: Conversion of agricultural property to commercial or residential use, such as removal of an orchard to put in a housing development is not considered agricultural burning and is not allowed with an agricultural burn permit.

Regardless of whether the agricultural burn requires a permit, you must contact your local fire department and inform them prior to burning.

Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs)

Agricultural burning is allowed when it is reasonably necessary to carry out the enterprise. A farmer can show burning is reasonably necessary when it meets the criteria of the BMPs and no practical alternative exists. BMPs are one of the ways to demonstrate the need to burn. Growers not using BMPs must establish that their proposed burn is reasonably necessary and that no practical alternative is available. The burden of proof is on the grower, and the demonstration must satisfy the Department of Ecology and the local delegated permitting authority, if there is a local permitting authority.

Current BMP Information:

  • Agricultural Burning Best Management Practices – click here

Permit Applications

Before an agricultural burn permit is issued, an application must be submitted and processed. You will need both the permit application and a copy of one of the Best Management Guidelines documents:

The following steps describe the application procedure:

  • Fill out the application. Be specific and COMPLETE. Refer to the Best Management Practices Guidance document as necessary. Incomplete applications will not be processed.
  • Calculate the total acres/tons and fee In the space provided, write the number of acres/tons from each of the proposed burns. Add together the acres/tons of each proposed burn, this is the number of acres/tons proposed.
  • Make checks payable to BCAA. Please do not send cash.
  • Sign and date the applicant statement portion.
  • Send the application and check for the permit fee to:

Benton Clean Air Agency
526 S. Steptoe St.
Kennewick, WA 99336

Receiving Your Permit

The BCAA will act on a complete application within seven (7) days and either send to you a permit or written reason why the application has been denied. If an incomplete application is submitted, it will be returned along with the fee.

Agricultural Burning Regulations

There are three sources of agricultural burning regulations which pertain to the residents of Benton County:

What About Burning ...

… on an orchard?

Burning on an orchard is considered agricultural burning and is subject to WAC 173-430. In order to burn you must have filed a Schedule F (Profit and Loss from Farming) form with the IRS. If you have not, you may not burn for agricultural purposes and may be cited for burning in your orchard.

The same laws that govern other types of agricultural burning also regulate burning on an orchard. There are, however, some differences relating to the reasons why a particular burn is being conducted. It is important that the orchardist is well informed prior to burning on orchard lands in order to lessen the chances for enforcement action.

There are three types of burning that can take place on an orchard, each with differing requirements.

  • Crop Rotation: Tree removal with intent to replace with different tree “crop”

Orchardists who plan to change crops by removing existing trees and replacing with another tree type or a different agricultural product, will need to apply for an Agricultural Burn Permit. Burning the “old” trees are subject to the conditions on the permit and burning is limited to agricultural “burn days”.

  • Crop Removal: Tree removal with intent to change land use, for example using the land for a housing development

In many cases, orchards are converted to some other land use, such as a housing development. Since the land will no longer be used for agricultural purposes the trees that are removed cannot be burned under an Agricultural Burning Permit. However, a Special Burn Permit can be used for this purpose. The Special Burn Permit carries a non-refundable $50 application fee plus an additional fee based upon the total volume of material to be burned (maximum $8.50 per cubic yard). A Special Burn Permit application can be downloaded (PDF).

  • Orchard prunings

A permit is not needed to burn tree prunings. Prunings can be burned at any time regardless of the agricultural “burn day”. However, care must be taken so that the smoke does not impact neighboring residents. By causing impact on residents, the fire may need to be extinguished and depending upon circumstances, possible BCAA enforcement action may apply.

... on a vineyard?

After much deliberation with the WSU Cooperative Extension and with several vinyardists, it was established that vineyard prunings do not fall into the same category as orchard prunings. As such, any burning on a vineyard requires an Agricultural Burning Permit and needs to follow the general agricultural burn rules.

... on a grass seed farm?

Most grass-seed field burning in Washington State has been ended by the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology). Ecology has officially certified alternatives to grass seed field burning that are practical and reasonably available. Ecology has also determined that mechanical residue management is a viable and reasonable available alternative in most cases. Only under limited specific situations may some burning of grass-seed fields take place. For more information contact the BCAA Inspector Rob Rodger , or go to the Department of Ecology Air Program.

... “flaming” or burning hop roots?

The BCAA and the Department of Ecology considers “flaming” and the burning of hop roots to be agricultural burning. As such, this type of burning requires an Agricultural Burning permit and need to follow the general agricultural burn rules.

... for non-agricultural purposes (land-clearing)?

An agricultural burn permit can only be used in circumstances that directly affect the propagation of field crops. An example would be the burning or wheat stubble, or the removal of an orchard to plant new fruit trees. However, if agricultural purposes will be ceased on a property and the land is to be cleared for another purpose, such as a housing development, an agricultural burning permit cannot be used for this purpose and a special burn permit is required. A Special Burn permit carries a non-refundable $50 application fee plus a negotiable $8.50 per cubic yard of to-be-burned material fee. An application for a Special Burn Permit can be downloaded (PDF).

Special Burn Permit Request

Agricultural Burning Regulations

  • Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 173-430 click here

Agricultural Daily Burn Decision

When is the next burn day?

Agricultural Burn Day

Burn days are not called in advance. BCAA staff checks for forecasted air dispersion conditions, which if they meet the critieria, mean that any smoke generated from burning should be diluted enough not to impact the general population. Wind speeds are also taken into consideration when making the daily decision. If strong winds are forcasted, incidental burning may also not be allowed in addition to permitted burning.

Also, most types of agricultural burns require a permit, others do not. Be sure that you understand whether or not you need a permit. Burning without a permit may lead to enforcement actions. Please do not hesitate to contact the BCAA office for clarification and assistance.

The burn day message is updated at 9 a.m. daily; no burn day will ever start prior to 9 a.m.

BCAA Office Agricultural Burn Line: 509-783-6570 or CLICK HERE

Burning

Burning, whether done indoors for heat or outdoors for recreation, creates unhealthful air pollution. Before burning, you need to know if burning is allowed and under what circumstances. By following the rules, you will keep smoke emissions to a minimum and avoid a potentially costly fine.

Agricultural Burning
In this section learn more about:

  • Agricultural Burning Best Manage Practices
  • Agricultural Burning Rules and permits

Outdoor Burning
In this section, learn more about:

  • Outdoor burning in Benton County – what’s allowed, what’s not
  • Residential, Land Clearing
  • Alternatives to burning
  • Health effects of burning – what you should know

Woodstoves and Fireplaces
In this section learn more about:

  • Key facts about wood heating
  • Air quality requirements related to wood burning
  • Limits on visible chimney smoke (opacity limits)

Outdoor Burning Fact Sheets

Agricultural Burning

The way agricultural burning is being managed is changing in the Northwest, with Washington State leading the way. This change is part of a comprehensive revision of the state’s air pollution laws that affects not just agriculture, but many other commercial, individual and governmental activities. The Clean Air Washington Act of 1991 (Chapter 70.94 RCW) states that those who contribute to air pollution will share the job of protecting air quality.

Agricultural burning is setting fire to:

  • Crop residue after harvest in order to reduce excess plant material and hinder pest infestations
  • Fruit tree debris from orchards after pruning or tree removal
  • Cereal grain (wheat, barley, corn and oats) stubble after harvest

All agricultural burning must follow Best Management Practices. Information on these BMP’s is found here.

Questions about burning

What is “agricultural burning” and how is it different from other forms of burning?

Agricultural burning is one of three kinds of outdoor burning. Outdoor burning also includes silvicultural (forest land) burning, and “open burning” — any other kind of burning outdoors in the open or in containers. As a farm management tool, an estimated 3, 000 to 5,000 agricultural fires are set each year in Washington, with up to 600,000 acres thought to be burned. Studies show that air quality levels can exceed federal health standards in areas affected by outdoor burning, especially from larger fires, or when dispersion of smoke by the wind is poor.

The Washington Clean Air Act (RCW 70.94) protects air quality in the state. Specifically, the RCW requires agricultural permits for commercial agricultural operations that burn natural vegetation as a farm management tool. The law also requires that the grower show the burning is reasonably necessary to carry out the enterprise. Agricultural burning meeting the criteria of the best management practices (identified by the agricultural burning practices and research task force) and where no practical alternative exists automatically satisfies this requirement. For further information, also see WAC 173-430.

Other forms of outdoor burning, such as that which is done at residences within the urban areas are considered to be waste-disposal, not as a management tool. This is primarily why many forms of outdoor burning are being phased out over time.

When is the next agricultural burn day?

Agricultural burn days are not called in advance. The BCAA staff checks for forecast air circulation conditions, which if good, mean that any smoke generated from burning should be diluted enough not to impact the general population. Because wind speed considerations are not taken into account when determining an agricultural burn day, it is the responsibility of the agricultural operation to determine if it is safe to burn or not.

Also, certain types of agricultural burns require a permit while others do not. Be sure that you understand whether or not you need a permit. Burning without a permit may lead to enforcement actions. Please do not hesitate to contact the BCAA office for clarification and assistance.

The burn day message is updated at 9 a.m. daily; no burn day will ever start prior to 9 a.m.

BCAA Office Agricultural Burn Line: 783-6570 or CLICK HERE

Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs)

Agricultural burning is allowed when it is reasonably necessary to carry out the enterprise. A farmer can show burning is reasonably necessary when it meets the criteria of the BMPs and no practical alternative exists. BMPs are one of the ways to demonstrate the need to burn. Growers not using BMPs must establish that their proposed burn is reasonably necessary and that no practical alternative is available. The burden of proof is on the grower, and the demonstration must satisfy the Department of Ecology and the local delegated permitting authority, if there is a local permitting authority.

Permits:

Many kinds of agricultural burning require permits. Information about permit applications, and the regulations upon which these programs are based is found here:

Do I need a permit to burn and how do I get one?

Agricultural Burning Permits and Forms

When is an agricultural burn permit not necessary?

Agricultural Burning Permits and Forms

What about burning?:

Other Agricultural Burning

  • on an commercial orchard
  • on a vineyard
  • on a grass seed farm
  • “flaming” or burning hop roots
  • for non-agricultural purposes (land-clearing)

The Department of Ecology’s page on Agricultural Burning is here.

Benton Clean Air Agency

Benton Clean Air Agency

Burn Decision & UGA Map



Determine whether or not you may burn at your location on residential burn days

Please enter your address to determine whether you are in an urban growth area of Benton County

Notices of Violation

If I am caught burning illegally, what will happen?

Enforcement actions usually begin once the BCAA receives complaints about illegal burning taking place. One of our inspectors is sent to the site to judge the severity of the violation and to document what is going on. The Inspector will try to locate the responsible individual or company and make them aware of the violations. At this point, the fire is required to be extinguished. After the Inspector finishes at the site, one of two things happens, either a warning letter or a Notice of Violation (NOV) is issued.

Warning letters are sent out if the violation was relatively minor or if the burner was uninformed. Once a warning letter is sent, the BCAA generally considers the case closed. If there are further violations after an individual or company has received a warning letter, the enforcement action may increase to an NOV, which is a much firmer form of enforcement.

The NOV is an official enforcement action and should be taken very seriously. Essentially the NOV is a ticket that informs the burner of the laws that were violated and of the Inspector’s findings at the site. The NOV starts the process of a formal case against the burner and cannot be appealed.Thirty days after the burner receives the NOV, the BCAA may assess a penalty in another formal document called a Notice of Penalty (NOP). According to Washington State law, penalties of up to $10,000 per violation per day may be assessed. For example, burning garbage in the city limits one a no-burn day with no mean to put the fire out equates to three violations or a maximum of $30,000 fine. Generally, though the BCAA does not fine to the greatest extent of the law and actual fines can be much lower.

I have received a “Notice of Violation”. What does it mean and what do I do now?

If you have received a Notice of Violation (NOV), it means that you have violated one or more air quality regulations. The NOV serves as official notice of the laws that were violated and of the Inspector’s report on the situation. It is important that you read the NOV very carefully. The NOV cannot be appealed. However, you may send written documentation to the BCAA indicating your understanding of the situation.

Thirty days after you receive your NOV, you may receive a Notice of Penalty (NOP). The NOP is the official notice of a fine being levied against you. You may or may not receive an NOP, as one is assigned on a case-by-case basis. The NOP is appealable and several options are presented in the NOP documentation. Again, you should read the documentation very carefully.

If you have any questions, please contact BCAA.

I have received a “Notice of Penalty”. What does it mean and what do I do now?

if you have received a Notice of Penalty (NOP), it means that thirty days have passed since you received the Notice of Violation (NOV). The NOP is the official notice of a fine being levied against you. The NOP is appealable and several options are presented in the NOP documentation. Again, you should read the documentation very carefully.

Option 1: Pay the fine in full. If you take option 1, your full payment is due within 30 days.

Option 2: Consent Order (CO). (Note: A consent order may or may not be available.) The CO represents a reduced penalty that may be paid in lieu of full payment if you do not commit a similar violation within the next year. By taking the CO, you forfeit the other avenues of mitigation and appeal. Once the paperwork has been filed and signed and the reduced penalty paid (within 30 days), the BCAA considered the case closed. However, if the conditions of the CO are not adhered to, for example a similar future violation within a year, the original penalty is reinstated and an additional NOV and NOP may be issued.

Option 3: Application for Relief of Penalty (ARP). If you feel that the penalty is unjustified and wish to contest the penalty this is the option to take. It is an opportunity to tell your recollection of the events that lead to the NOV. Note, however, that if a reduction of penalty is granted, it will not be less than that offered on the CO. The ARP must be filed within 15 days.

Option 4: Appeal to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board (PCHB).
This is your opportunity to have a day in court. The PCHB is a state level hearing board that will hear the your case. The PCHB has the power to overturn the penalty issued by the BCAA. However, if you choose this option, the PCHB will be considering the full amount of the penalty, not the amount listed in the CO. In most cases, the PCHB does not lower the penalty below that offered on the CO.

If you have any questions about your NOP or your legal options, please contact BCAA.

Also note that there are several timed deadlines that you should follow. Failure to meet specific deadlines nullifies certain avenues of appeal.

Fire Protection Districts

A link to the Fire Protection District Map is here.

City/Region Fire District Phone #
Benton City BCFPD #2 509-588-3212
Benton County (East) BCFPD #1 509-734-9100
Benton County (West) BCFPD #5 509-786-1723
Finley BCFPD #1 509-734-9100
Kennewick Fire Department 509-585-4230
Patterson BCFPD #6 509-875-2029
Plymouth BCFPD #6 509-875-2029
Prosser BCFPD #3 509-786-3873
Prosser (South) BCFPD #5 509-786-1723
Richland Fire Department 509-942-7550
West Richland BCFPD #4 509-967-2945


Smoke Opacity

Smoke Opacity

State law prohibits the generation of excessive chimney smoke. Except for brief periods during start-up and refueling, smoke is in violation when it obscures objects viewed through it by more than 20%.

Generation of smoke densities greater than 20% could result in fines from air pollution control officials. Stoves operated with dry wood and a generous air supply produce less smoke and more heat.

Woodstoves and Fireplaces

Clean Home Heating

Many people don’t think of the smoke from their wood stove or fireplace as air pollution. Some people even like the smell of wood smoke. But wood smoke is one of the main sources of air pollution in Washington.

Wood smoke contains fine particles, PM 2.5, which are associated with serious health effects, as the tiny size of these pollutants allows them to be easily inhaled, bypassing the immune system and proceeding deep into your lungs, where they can cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems, including premature death.

In winter, more than half of Washington’s fine particle air pollution comes from the homes being heated using wood. Wood stoves, fireplaces and other wood-burning devices put out hundreds of times more air pollution than other sources of heat such as natural gas, propane, oil or electricity.

Video on How to Select a New Stove for Home Heat

Video on How to Operate Your Wood Stove More Efficiently

The fire: Give it air!

The right amount of air gives you a hotter fire and more complete combustion. That translates to more heat from your wood and less smoke and pollution. Here are some cleaner burning tips:

  • Build small, hot fires. Don’t add too much fuel at one time.
  • Step outside and check the chimney or flue. If you can see smoke, your fire may need more air.
  • Read and follow the stove manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Don’t “bank” the stove full of wood and damper down the air supply. This wastes wood, produces much air pollution, promotes accumulation of creosote (which requires more frequent cleaning and can lead to chimney fires) and yields very little heat. Half-full is adequate; it provides enough air space for efficient combustion.
  • Don’t damper down too far. Allow enough air to reach the wood. This varies among models and kinds of stoves.
  • Make sure your stove is the right size for your home. Too large a stove will overheat your living space. You’ll want to damper down. This causes added pollution and wastes wood.
  • Don’t burn in moderate temperatures. You’ll want to damper down, which causes more pollution and wastes wood.
  • Don’t burn when air currents carry your smoke to your neighbor’s yard or house.
  • Only burn dry, seasoned firewood, never garbage. Burning garbage is illegal in the state of Washington and creates a greater health hazard.

The fuel: keep it dry!

Wood can seem dry and still contain plenty of water, up to 50 percent. The moisture in wood makes the fire give off more smoke. On the other hand, dry wood can provide up to 44 percent more heat. It is against state law to burn wood with more than 20 percent moisture content in fireplaces or wood stoves.

Two things work very well at making sure your wood is dry enough: time and cover. Whether you buy wood or harvest your own, follow these tips to get it fire-ready:

  • Split it. The wood will dry best and burn most efficiently if the pieces are three and one-half to six inches in diameter.
  • Cover it. Protect the wood from rain and weather. Stack it loosely-in layers of alternating directions- to allow plenty of air circulation. Store it at least six inches off the ground.
  • Give it a year. Wood that has been split, dried and stored under cover for at least one year usually meets the 20 percent moisture content requirement.

State law does not regulate the dryness of any wood sold. If the seller states that the wood is dry or seasoned, consider it a claim; make sure for yourself. You—and not the seller—are responsible for the dryness of the wood you put on your fire.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I burn in my woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue on a “no burn day”?

Yes. Woodstove, fireplace, and barbecue use is unrestricted at all times. The burn day decision does not apply to these devices. The only time when use is restricted is during a statewide air pollution episode, which occurs rarely.

Can I burn paper or garbage in my woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue?

Washington State law prohibits the burning of paper, except that which is necessary to start the fire. Burning large amounts of paper is potentially very dangerous as often large burning embers exit the chimney and can cause fires outside the home. The burning of garbage is strictly prohibited by State law.

How do I know if I am burning correctly in my woodstove or fireplace?

Your woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue must be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Also, the amount of smoke produces by these devices must be minimized. The smoke coming out of your chimney should be almost colorless and thin. Thick, white or black smoke indicates that your fire is not receiving enough air. Woodstoves, fireplaces, and barbecues should be used in such a way as to minimize the impact on neighbors. Here are some additional tips:

  • Burn only dry fuel. Moist wood gives off more smoke and may produce up to 44% less heat.
  • Ideally, burn wood that has been split and dried for one year.
  • Never burn painted, stained or treated wood, colored newsprint, plastic, cardboard, garbage, diapers or magazines.
  • Twenty minutes after starting your fire, check your chimney for smoke. If you see any smoke, it probably exceeds the legal limit. Increase air to the fire for cleaner burning.
  • Burn small hot fires and allow plenty of air to reach the fire. Avoid excessive dampening to extend the duration of the burn, see The Myth of Air-Starved Burning below.
  • Never allow the fire to smolder. Smoldering fires pollute, are inefficient and are a fire hazard.

One myth, which is perhaps the most damaging to air quality and potentially damaging to health and safety, is that there are benefits to starving a wood stove for adequate combustion of air. A fire starved for air is excessively smoky because of incomplete combustion and therefore produces more unburned particulates and gaseous air pollutants than a hot fire with adequate air. Poor combustion also promotes the buildup of creosote in chimneys posing a fire hazard. Carbon monoxide from incomplete combustion can also buildup inside houses posing a direct threat of death by asphyxiation.

This myth had its origin in the 1970’s energy crisis when the popularity of wood stoves increased. Many poorly designed stoves have been marketed that are not air-tight and otherwise have poor combustion air controls. Manufacturers may have recommended, or owners may have discovered, the technique of severely restricting air flow to compensate for poor design. In addition, marginal economics and high labor requirements of wood burning have made conservation of wood a priority, which makes reducing wood consumption yet another excuse for starving wood stove fires for air.

Burning of uncured wood with moisture contents over 20% compounds the problems of poor combustion from air-starved fires by promoting even greater production of air pollutants and creosote. Burning high moisture wood decreases the usable energy from the wood because heat from burning is diverted into evaporating the water rather than heating the air as desired.

What are some of health effects from breathing smoke from woodstove, fireplaces or barbecues?*

Breathing air containing wood smoke can:

  • reduce lung function, especially in children;
  • increase severity of existing lung disease such as asthma, emphysema, pneumonia and bronchitis;
  • aggravate heart disease;
  • increase susceptibility to lower respiratory diseases;
  • irritate eyes, lungs, throat and sinuses;
  • trigger headaches and allergies.

Those at greatest health risk from wood smoke include:

  • fetuses, infants and children;
  • people with lung, heart, circulatory diseases or allergies;
  • the elderly;
  • cigarette smokers and ex-smokers.

Contents of wood smoke:

There are many components to wood smoke that can cause risk to your health. These compounds include:

  • carbon monoxide, fatal in high concentrations;
  • formaldehyde, a possible cause of human cancer;
  • organic gases which may interfere with lung function;
  • nitrogen oxides, linked to hardening of the arteries;
  • tiny smoke particles that lodge in the lungs causing structural damage. These tiny particles, or PM10, are less than 10 microns wide, or about 1/7 the diameter of a human hair.

What if my neighbor’s woodstove or fireplace is producing a strong, foul odor?

The primary cause of foul odors from woodstoves and fireplaces is the burning of green wood. Because green wood contains so much water, it does not burn efficiently and essentially just smolders. Smoldering fires are not hot enough to destroy the bulk of the odors. The solution to such a problem is to burn well-seasoned, dry wood in a hot fire, with lots of air. If you are bothered by a neighbor’s smoke, you should contact the BCAA office or file a complaint

What are the restrictions on buying or selling a used woodstove or fireplace in Benton County?

Since July 1, 1992, only EPA certified wood stoves and fireplace inserts may be legally sold or installed in Washington. There should be a metal tag permanently affixed to the device that will indicate EPA certification. According to Washington State law and BCAA Regulation 1, it is illegal to advertise to sell, offer to sell, sell, bargain, exchange, or give away an uninstalled used uncertified fireplace or woodstove. If you have any questions, please contact the BCAA.

A list of EPA certified woodstoves can be found at the Washington State Department of Ecology Air Program website

Alternatives to Outdoor Burning

Non-Burning Alternatives are available and many residents choose to chip or compost this material to use in their yard and garden. Others may haul their “clean green” to a local recycling transfer station or to a private collection company.

Instead of burning your yard debris, why not try an alternative. The following is a list of several that are available.

Composting

Want bigger, brighter, fuller flowers and county-fair-sized vegetables? Try composting your garden and yard debris. Nothing beats adding compost for soil enrichment. And if you think composting is just a fad of the ’90s, here’s and interesting fact: a Roman statesman named Marcus Cato introduced composting as a way to build up the soil of ancient Rome more that 2,000 years ago. In-the-know gardeners will tell you that nothing makes their gardens grow like a great homemade compost. Creating a balance of wet, “green” materials (such as grass clippings, certain food scraps, and various kinds of manure and dry, “brown” materials (the dry leaves and woody materials that you might previously burned!) creates the perfect compost. The “browns” are really carbon-rich materials and the “greens” are nitrogen-rich products that work together with microbes to build a soil-enriching compost for your garden. Need some more convincing reasons to compost?

Here’s a list of some of the great benefits of composting:

  • Composting is a perfect alternative to open (backyard) burning
  • Composting saves space in the landfill
  • Composing enriches the soil and turns out better plants and vegetables
  • Composting is convenient. Just think, the time and energy you now expend to bag and haul all your garden debris to the trash can, landfill, or transfer station can be turned into a useful product.
  • Composting saves money (less money spent on leaf bags, fertilizers, mulch, bagged compost, peat moss, or other soil enhancements).

For more information on backyard composting, call the Washington State University Cooperative Extension or the Benton County Solid Waste Department (see Resources below) or check out the BCAA Composting flier by clicking the burning tab at the top of the page and then scrolling to the bottom.

Make Your Own Mulch

Mulch is a protective covering for your plants, shrubs, and trees that truly benefits your garden. When it’s spread in garden beds or under shrubs and trees, mulch reduces evaporation, maintains even soil temperature, prevent erosion, controls weeds, and enriches the soil. You can make your own mulch by chipping “brown: or carbon-rich yard debris. Call the Washington State Cooperative Extension or the Benton County Solid Waste Department (see Resources below).

You can find out more information by viewing the BCAA Mulching flier by clicking the burning tab at the top of the page and then scrolling to the bottom.

Use a Mulching Mover for a Healthy Lawn

If you leave “mulched” grass on your lawn instead of burning the clippings, you’re doing your grass, yourself, and the environment a favor. Don’t worry, because this finely chopped grass has a temporary mulching effect but rapidly decomposes to return valuable nutrients to the soil. Together these benefits of a mulching mower help your lawn hold water and reduce fertilizer costs. Over time, the soils in our hot, dry climate become healthier simply from the added organic matter. Perhaps the best benefit is that you spend less time handling grass clippings. You can buy a mulching mower for the same cost as comparable non-mulching mowers and some models even have a mulch/no mulch/bagging option.

Chipping

Large quantities of woody vegetative material from yards, gardens, other landscaping features, or land- clearing can be turned into a useful product. The resulting wood chips can be used for a number of purposes. For more information, check out the BCAA Chipping flier by clicking the burning tab at the top of the page and then scrolling to the bottom.

Landscape Management

In our region, most people prefer irrigated lawns with trees, shrubs and grass for the benefits they provide: cooling, fire protection, and aesthetic environment. If you can incorporate some of the following ideas into your landscaping, you may lessen your yard debris:

Reduce or limit the number of trees and shrubs you plant

  • Plant varieties that minimize debris
  • Plant low-residue plant and native varieties that thrive in our grow zone
  • Consider planting a xeriscape – an urban landscape that decreases yard waste and conserves water as well. In xeriscapes, native or arid-zone adapted plants produce minimum residue and rely on natural rainfall only.

Use the Landfill

Disposing of your yard debris in a landfill is also an alternative to burning. This is especially true for people who can’t take advantage of composting, making mulch, mulching mowers, or installing low-residue landscaping. In other parts of the state, landfill space is at a premium, but in our region, landfill space is not currently a concern. However, disposing as recyclable yard debris in the landfill is an option that should be used only as necessary as a substitute for open burning.

Resources

Washington State University Cooperative Extension
Master Gardener Program
Tri-Cities (509) 735-3551
Prosser (509) 786-2226

Benton County Solid Waste Department
Tri-Cities (509)783-1310 ext 5682
Prosser (509)786-5611

City of Richland
Environmental Education Coordinator
505 Swift Blvd, Richland, WA 99352
(509) 942-7730

City of Kennewick
Solid Waste Environmental Division
210 W 6th Ave, Kennewick, WA 99336
(509) 585-4317

Burning Detail Questions

... tumbleweeds blown on to my property?

Tumbleweeds that have been blown on to your property can be burned at any time, regardless of the burn day and regardless of whether you are inside or outside the Urban Growth Area (UGA). However, only the tumbleweeds can be burned, any other vegetative material to be burned is subject to the rules specific to your location.

... tumbleweeds that are growing on my property?

If the tumbleweeds are growing on your property, you cannot burn them in place.

If tumbleweeds are actually growing on your property, you must obtain a special burn permit in order to burn the tumblewweds in-place. Be aware that therer is a fee charged for a special burn permit. You may want to consider an alternative to burning such as mulching, mowing, or composting. However, you may also want to try to control the weeds before they become a problem by mowing or using a commercial herbicide. For more information you can download a flyer on tumbleweed burning here (PDF).

... in a woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue?

At the present time, in Benton County, there are no restrictions on when you can use your woodstove, barbecue, or fireplace. However, you must burn properly to minimize the impact of smoke on your neighbors.

... for recreation (campfire or bonfire)?

As of April 13, 2000, the definition and rules about recreational fires have changed. Recreational fire means [by definition] cooking fires, campfires, and bonfires using charcoal or firewood that occur in designated areas or on private property for cooking or pleasure purposes (WAC 173-425-030). Fires used for debris disposal are not considered recreational fires. For more information you can download a flyer on recreational fires here (PDF).

Inside the UGA: Recreational fires that are larger than three feet in diameter and two feet high require a permit. Permit conditions may limit the date and time burning is allowed. Recreational fires smaller than 3’x2’ are allowed at any time, regardless of the “burn day”, and do not require a permit.

Outside the UGA: Recreational fires are allowed at any time and do not require a permit.

... in a burn barrel?

As of April 13, 2000, the use of the traditional metal burn barrel is illegal throughout the State. This was done primarily to make the state rule consistent with the Uniform Fire Code.

If you feel that you must use a system similar to the burn barrel, waste disposal is still allowed in an outdoor burning device. This device must be constructed of concrete or masonry with a completely enclosed combustion chamber and a permanently attached iron spark arrester (max 1/2 inch holes). The device can only be used to dispose of natural vegetative debris. Paper, garbage, wood products, and other prohibited materials are illegal to burn.

... construction debris on my property?

The burning of construction debris is prohibited by state law, WAC 173-425-050(2), and by BCAA Regulation 1 Article 5 Section 5.02E. Because of the significant amount of prohibited materials found in construction fires of the past, BCAA Regulation 1 strictly prohibits any fire from occurring on a construction site. This includes the burning of vegetative debris and the burning of tumbleweeds. Burning illegally on a construction site will likely result in a violation and fine.

... on my small/hobby orchard?

Small hobby farms and small orchards are also subject to burning rules and regulations. If the farm or orchard sells what it produces and files a Schedule F with its income taxes, the farm is considered to be a commercial operation and is subject to the agricultural burning rules. All other farms and orchards are considered to be non-commercial. As with residential burning of yard waste, the location of the property is important.

Because outdoor burning have been substantially banned within the UGA, there are no “burn days” per se that farms and orchards may use for waste disposal. The only option available for farms and orchards within the UGA is to apply for a Special Burning Permit. Please contact us for information and details.

Outside the UGA, a farm or orchard can burn its dry, natural vegetation as long as there is a burn day. Burn day status is available by calling 946-4489. However, the farm cannot clear fields and steps must be taken to minimize the impact of the smoke on neighbors. Failure to comply with these additional restrictions could result in enforcement action.

If there are any questions concerning burning on hobby farms and orchards, please contact us.

... on a lot or area that is a fire hazard?

Brush and weeds on a piece of property can be considered a fire hazard. However, you will need to have your local fire department come to your property and declare it a fire hazard. In addition, the fire department must agree that burning the material would be the safest way to eliminate the hazard; in most cases alternatives, such as mowing, are equally effective. If the fire department determines that the fire hazard would be reduced by burning, then the BCAA will issue a permit to burn the material.

Frequently Asked Questions about Outdoor Burning

What are some alternatives to burning?

Information on Alternatives to Burning is here.

My residence is inside the Urban Growth Area (UGA) of Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Prosser, or Benton City, can I burn?

The Washington Administrative Code (WAC) required that residential and land clearing burning in urban growth areas of cities larger than 5,000 be banned as of January 1, 2001. For cities smaller than 5,000, such as Benton City, outdoor burning was allowed until January 1, 2004. However, as of January 1, burning is now banned in the UGA of Benton City as well. Recent changes in the State law have further defined what types of burning can or cannot take place within the urban growth areas. Based on these changes, the following is a summary list of the applicable rules for burning in the urban growth areas of Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Prosser, and Benton City.

If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the Urban Growth Area (UGA), you may search your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304 .

PROHIBITED

  • burning yard debris (leaves, branches, etc.) at your property
  • transferring material from Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Prosser, or Benton City to outside the UGA for the purpose of burning the material
  • the use of burn barrels
  • burning for land-clearing purposes
  • burning tumbleweeds that are growing on your property
  • burning garbage, dead animals, asphalt, petroleum products, paints, rubber products, plastics, paper (other than what is necessary to start the fire), cardboard, treated wood, construction debris, metal, or any substance (other than natural vegetation) which when burned releases toxic emissions, dense smoke, or odors.” (WAC 173-425-050(2))

ALLOWED WITH A PERMIT

  • burning a recreational fire greater than 3 feet in diameter.

ALLOWED WITHOUT A PERMIT

  • burning a recreational fire that is less than 3 feet in diameter
  • burning tumbleweeds that blew on to your property

Can I burn? My residence is outside the Urban Growth Area.

If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the UGA, you may search your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304.

If you have confirmed that your residence is outside of the urban growth area, you may burn under the residential burning rules.

In 1995, the Washington State legislature changed some of the burning rules and how they were applied in different parts of the State. For those residents outside of the UGA, the following rules apply:

PROHIBITED

  • burning garbage, dead animals, asphalt, petroleum products, paints, rubber products, plastics, paper (other than what is necessary to start the fire), cardboard, treated wood, construction debris, metal, or any substance (other than natural vegetation) which when burned releases toxic emissions, dense smoke, or odors.” (WAC 173-425-050(2))

PROHIBITED AS OF JAN 1, 2001

  • the use of burn barrels

ALLOWED ON A BURN DAY You must have a burn day before you may burn. The burn message, updated by 9 AM, is 509-783-6198.

  • Only material generated at your residence can be burned.
  • Only dry, natural vegetation can be burned. Burning paper (other than enough to start fire), plastic, lumber, building debris, and garbage is strictly prohibited.
  • Someone must be in attendance of the fire at all times and be able to put out the fire if necessary.
  • No fires are allowed within 50 feet of any flammable structure.
  • The pile size is limited to 4 ft by 4 ft by 3 ft high.
  • Only one pile can be burned at a time. Continually feeding material into one fire is OK.
  • The fire must be extinguished if it creates a nuisance.
  • You can only burn at your residential property or the property owner’s permission must be obtained prior to burning.
  • Your fire must be completely extinguished by the end of the burn day.

ALLOWED WITH A PERMIT

  • burning for weed abatement (including tumbleweeds growing on your property)
  • burning a recreational fire greater than 3 feet in diameter.

What is an “Urban Growth Area” and how do I know if my residence is inside or outside?

The applicable open burning regulations depend upon where the property is located with respect to the “Urban Growth Area”, or UGA. The urban growth area (UGA) is defined by a line that the incorporated cities (Richland, Kennewick, West Richland, Benton City, and Prosser) expect to grow into during the next 20 years. The UGA includes all the city limits, the “islands” of County within the cities, and some parts of County land immediately adjacent to the city limits. Those properties that lie inside of this boundary have different burning rules than those properties lying outside the boundary. If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the UGA, you may search for your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304.

Urban Growth Area Maps are here.

I can’t meet some or all of the burn rules, is there another way I can burn legally?

Many of the burn rules are, in many cases, restrictive by design. By creating these rules, the State can reduce the amount of burning taking place in the urban areas, reducing both air pollution and fire risk. However, there are circumstances where the BCAA can allow an individual or company to burn outside of these rules.

A Special Burn Permit may be issued under specific circumstances. The permit has an associated fee that is assessed in two parts. First, there is a $75 non-refundable application fee that must accompany the written application. This allows the BCAA Inspector to process the application and if necessary, inspect the materials to be burned prior to burning. The application can either be accepted or rejected at this point. If accepted, there is an additional charge of no more than $8.50 per cubic yard of material to be burned. The fees must be paid within 30 days of the permit being issued. A permit is issued that is specific to the applicant’s type of burning. The permit conditions often will allow more “burn days” than would be available under the urban are spring and fall burn windows.

If you would like to apply for a Special Burn Permit, the application is Special Burn Permit Request along with the fee, to the BCAA. If you have any questions, please contact us.

How does the BCAA determine whether or not to allow a “burn day”?

Information on how the daily burn decision is made is here.

“What about burning” answers to these questions are found here:*

  • tumbleweeds blown on to my property?
  • tumbleweeds that are growing on my property?
  • in a woodstove, barbecue, or fireplace?
  • for recreation (campfire or bonfire)?
  • in a burn barrel?
  • construction debris on my property?
  • on my small/hobby orchard?
  • on a lot or area that is a fire hazard?

How do I build a good, hot fire, that does not produce a lot of smoke? The Boy Scouts of America recommend when burning a fire:

1. Use dry, seasoned wood. Do not burn material that has just been cut or has been soaked by moisture. 2. Use a mixture of material of different sizes and thickness. Start with small tinder: like dry moss or really dry pine needles. Next, put kindling into the fire. Kindling are small pieces of wood no larger than the width of one of your fingers. Arrange your third and last material, the “fuel” (larger material), in a teepee type style. Put a break in the pattern, like a door to the teepee, facing into the wind. This break allows the breeze to blow into the fire and creates a hotter, more efficient fire. 3. Light your fire with matches, no fuel (gasoline, lighter fluid, etc.) should be necessary, through the door of the teepee. Start by lighting the tinder, the tinder will then catch the remaining material on fire. Add material as the fire burns hot and quickly.

My property is zoned agriculture. Do I follow the open burning rules or the agricultural burning rules?

State law views residential burning and agricultural burning as two separate issues, both with associated laws. In order to qualify an agricultural burn permit you must show evidence of agricultural activity taking place, usually in the form of supplying a copy of the IRS form Schedule F: Profit and Loss from Farming. Only those operations with proof of an agricultural operation will be issued an agricultural burn permit. The zoning regulations are local regulations and do not apply to burning applications. Areas which are zoned agriculture, but do not supply this proof, must comply with the general rule burn rules and the “burn days”.

Urban Growth Area Information

The applicable open burning regulations depend upon where the property is located with respect to the “Urban Growth Area”, or UGA. The urban growth area (UGA) is defined by a line that the incorporated cities (Richland, Kennewick, West Richland, Benton City, and Prosser) expect to grow into during the next 20 years. The UGA includes all the city limits, the “islands” of County within the cities, and some parts of County land immediately adjacent to the city limits. Those properties that lie inside of this boundary have different burning rules than those properties lying outside the boundary. If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the UGA, you can search your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304.

Regulations

Ecology’s rule on Outdoor Burning is here.

Daily Burn Decision

This information applies only to residents that live outside of the urban growth area. If you are inside the city limits of Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Benton City, or Prosser you are never allowed to burn yard debris at your residence. Also please note, that just because your property is outside of city limits, does not mean that you are also outside the urban growth area. To search whether your address is within an urban growth area, click here. You may also call the Benton County Planning Dept. or Benton Clean Air Agency for help determining whether you are inside or outside the urban growth area.

The Residential and Agricultural burn line numbers can be found in the top left corner of the page. Please call to find out the current conditions and restrictions. The daily burn decision is also available here.

The burn decision is made every morning prior to 9:00 am and is based on that day’s forecasted meteorological conditions. If necessary, the burn lines are updated to reflect the status of the burn decision. Should conditions unexpectedly change, the burn line may be updated as needed.

When making the burn decision, the BCAA utilizes information from the National Weather Service and a modeling forecast produced by the University of WA, in cooperation with the Dept of Ecology. This modeling forecast is called the “MM5” and gives a projected forecast of the atmospheric dispersion conditions, throughout the state, at different times throughout the day.

These tools are used uniformly throughout most of the state in making the daily agricultural burn decision. Forecasted wind speeds are not a primary factor in determining agricultural burn days in Benton County. Fire safety is the responsibility of the farmers. Wind warnings are given on the burn day message for surface wind speeds forecasted above 15 mph.

The residential burn decision is based on the same information used to make the agricultural burn decision. However, in consideration for fire safety and at the request of our local fire departments, wind speed is taken into consideration. When the surface wind speeds from the National Weather Service office in Pendleton, OR for the Columbia Basin are forecast to exceed 20 mph, residential burning will not be allowed. For forecasted surface wind speeds between 15 and 20 mph, a wind warning is issued.

For outdoor burning, the Benton Clean Air Agency allows burning generally only when dispersion conditions are forecasted to be good.

Bright sunny days are frequently not good smoke dispersion days and are characterized by high pressure systems. The latter characteristically has descending air masses, low mixing level ceilings, and little horizontal air movement. Known in meteorology as stable air masses, all the factors associated with these air masses combine to limit the both the volume and vertical mixing of near-surface air. Air pollutants emitted into the air under these conditions from any source, one of which may be outdoor burning, are effectively trapped and do not disperse by vertical mixing and horizontal transport at higher altitudes.

In contrast, low pressure weather systems are characterized by unstable air that is rising and frequently turbulent. Both vertical mixing with high elevation mixing levels and horizontal air movement very effectively dilute and disperse air pollutants emitted into the air.

Unfortunately, these meteorologically unstable air masses frequently have high wind speeds and gusty wind plus precipitation. High gusty wind conditions pose a fire safety hazard.

Outdoor Burning

Residential Burning Program

Under the residential burning program, only residents located outside of the Urban Growth Area are allowed to burn. Residents outside the UGA must still call the residential burn line to find out whether or not it is a burn day. The phone number is located at the top of the page, and is updated on a daily basis. You may also find the burn decision, here.

To search whether your address is within an Urban Growth Area of Benton County, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page.

If it is a burn day, and you are located outside of the UGA, the following burning rules apply:

  • Only dry natural vegetation may be burned
  • Only one pile at a time may be burned, and the pile must be extinguished before ingniting another
  • The pile must be no larger than 4 feet by 4 feet by 3 feet tall
  • The fire must be located 50 feet from all flamable structures
  • You must be in attendance of the fire at all times
  • You must not create a nuisance with the smoke from your fire
  • The use of burn barrels is prohibited

Failure to adhere to these rules may result in the issuance of a violation and/or fine.

Residents Inside The Urban Growth Area

Residents located inside the Urban Growth Area are not allowed to burn for disposal purposes.

The following types of burning are allowed inside the Urban Growth Area:

1. Burning of tumbleweeds that have blown on to your property using the following guidelines:
- You must call the burn line to see if tumbleweed burning has been banned due to high winds or fire safety
- You must not create a nuisance with the smoke
- You must be in attendance of the fire at all times
- The use of burn barrels is prohibited

2. Recreational Fires using the following guidelines:
- The fire must not be larger than 3 feet by 3 feet by 2 feet tall
- You must be in attendance at all times
- Only dry, seasoned firewood may be used; The fire cannot be used for disposal purposes
- The fire must be 50 feet from all flammable structures
- You must not create a nuisnace with the smoke
- The use of burn barrels is prohibited

3. Barbeques

4. Woodstoves

Failure to adhere to the guidelines listed above may result in a violation and/or fine.

Fees

A. An application fee for an agricultural burning permit shall be due and payable at the time of submittal of the application.

B. Upon approval of any agricultural burning permit application, the BCAA shall charge a fee at a maximum fee level as set by statute.

C. Minimum and variable fee levels are as follows:

  • Thirty seven dollars and fifty cents ($37.50) per calendar year per field burn based on burning up to ten acres or equivalent; Each additional acre is $3.75 per acre.
  • Eighty dollars ($80.00) for pile burning per calendar year per agricultural operation based on burning debris from up to 80 tons or equivalent; Each additional ton is $1.00 per ton.

The agricultural burning practices and research task force may set acreage equivalents, for non-field style agricultural burning practices, based on the amount of emissions relative to typical field burning emissions. Any acreage equivalents, established by rule, shall be used in determining fees. For agricultural burning conducted by irrigation or drainage districts, each mile of ditch (including banks) burned is calculated on an equivalent acreage basis.

For a complete breakdown of the fee schedule, click here.

Agricultural Burning Permits and Forms

Most commercial burning of agricultural fields or for agricultural purposes requires a permit from the BCAA.

Agricultural Permit is required for ..

  • Orchard or vineyard takeout
  • Vineyard prunings
  • Disease or weed control
  • Residue removal
  • Research/demonstration project
  • Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) or renovation purposes
  • “Flaming” of hop roots

Agricultural Permit is not required* for ..

  • Orchard prunings
  • Natural vegetation along fencelines, irrigation canals, or drainage ditches.
  • Tumbleweeds

*NOTE: Conversion of agricultural property to commercial or residential use, such as removal of an orchard to put in a housing development is not considered agricultural burning and is not allowed with an agricultural burn permit.

Regardless of whether the agricultural burn requires a permit, you must contact your local fire department and inform them prior to burning.

Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs)

Agricultural burning is allowed when it is reasonably necessary to carry out the enterprise. A farmer can show burning is reasonably necessary when it meets the criteria of the BMPs and no practical alternative exists. BMPs are one of the ways to demonstrate the need to burn. Growers not using BMPs must establish that their proposed burn is reasonably necessary and that no practical alternative is available. The burden of proof is on the grower, and the demonstration must satisfy the Department of Ecology and the local delegated permitting authority, if there is a local permitting authority.

Current BMP Information:

  • Agricultural Burning Best Management Practices – click here

Permit Applications

Before an agricultural burn permit is issued, an application must be submitted and processed. You will need both the permit application and a copy of one of the Best Management Guidelines documents:

The following steps describe the application procedure:

  • Fill out the application. Be specific and COMPLETE. Refer to the Best Management Practices Guidance document as necessary. Incomplete applications will not be processed.
  • Calculate the total acres/tons and fee In the space provided, write the number of acres/tons from each of the proposed burns. Add together the acres/tons of each proposed burn, this is the number of acres/tons proposed.
  • Make checks payable to BCAA. Please do not send cash.
  • Sign and date the applicant statement portion.
  • Send the application and check for the permit fee to:

Benton Clean Air Agency
526 S. Steptoe St.
Kennewick, WA 99336

Receiving Your Permit

The BCAA will act on a complete application within seven (7) days and either send to you a permit or written reason why the application has been denied. If an incomplete application is submitted, it will be returned along with the fee.

Agricultural Burning Regulations

There are three sources of agricultural burning regulations which pertain to the residents of Benton County:

What About Burning ...

… on an orchard?

Burning on an orchard is considered agricultural burning and is subject to WAC 173-430. In order to burn you must have filed a Schedule F (Profit and Loss from Farming) form with the IRS. If you have not, you may not burn for agricultural purposes and may be cited for burning in your orchard.

The same laws that govern other types of agricultural burning also regulate burning on an orchard. There are, however, some differences relating to the reasons why a particular burn is being conducted. It is important that the orchardist is well informed prior to burning on orchard lands in order to lessen the chances for enforcement action.

There are three types of burning that can take place on an orchard, each with differing requirements.

  • Crop Rotation: Tree removal with intent to replace with different tree “crop”

Orchardists who plan to change crops by removing existing trees and replacing with another tree type or a different agricultural product, will need to apply for an Agricultural Burn Permit. Burning the “old” trees are subject to the conditions on the permit and burning is limited to agricultural “burn days”.

  • Crop Removal: Tree removal with intent to change land use, for example using the land for a housing development

In many cases, orchards are converted to some other land use, such as a housing development. Since the land will no longer be used for agricultural purposes the trees that are removed cannot be burned under an Agricultural Burning Permit. However, a Special Burn Permit can be used for this purpose. The Special Burn Permit carries a non-refundable $50 application fee plus an additional fee based upon the total volume of material to be burned (maximum $8.50 per cubic yard). A Special Burn Permit application can be downloaded (PDF).

  • Orchard prunings

A permit is not needed to burn tree prunings. Prunings can be burned at any time regardless of the agricultural “burn day”. However, care must be taken so that the smoke does not impact neighboring residents. By causing impact on residents, the fire may need to be extinguished and depending upon circumstances, possible BCAA enforcement action may apply.

... on a vineyard?

After much deliberation with the WSU Cooperative Extension and with several vinyardists, it was established that vineyard prunings do not fall into the same category as orchard prunings. As such, any burning on a vineyard requires an Agricultural Burning Permit and needs to follow the general agricultural burn rules.

... on a grass seed farm?

Most grass-seed field burning in Washington State has been ended by the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology). Ecology has officially certified alternatives to grass seed field burning that are practical and reasonably available. Ecology has also determined that mechanical residue management is a viable and reasonable available alternative in most cases. Only under limited specific situations may some burning of grass-seed fields take place. For more information contact the BCAA Inspector Rob Rodger , or go to the Department of Ecology Air Program.

... “flaming” or burning hop roots?

The BCAA and the Department of Ecology considers “flaming” and the burning of hop roots to be agricultural burning. As such, this type of burning requires an Agricultural Burning permit and need to follow the general agricultural burn rules.

... for non-agricultural purposes (land-clearing)?

An agricultural burn permit can only be used in circumstances that directly affect the propagation of field crops. An example would be the burning or wheat stubble, or the removal of an orchard to plant new fruit trees. However, if agricultural purposes will be ceased on a property and the land is to be cleared for another purpose, such as a housing development, an agricultural burning permit cannot be used for this purpose and a special burn permit is required. A Special Burn permit carries a non-refundable $50 application fee plus a negotiable $8.50 per cubic yard of to-be-burned material fee. An application for a Special Burn Permit can be downloaded (PDF).

Special Burn Permit Request

Agricultural Burning Regulations

  • Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 173-430 click here

Agricultural Daily Burn Decision

When is the next burn day?

Agricultural Burn Day

Burn days are not called in advance. BCAA staff checks for forecasted air dispersion conditions, which if they meet the critieria, mean that any smoke generated from burning should be diluted enough not to impact the general population. Wind speeds are also taken into consideration when making the daily decision. If strong winds are forcasted, incidental burning may also not be allowed in addition to permitted burning.

Also, most types of agricultural burns require a permit, others do not. Be sure that you understand whether or not you need a permit. Burning without a permit may lead to enforcement actions. Please do not hesitate to contact the BCAA office for clarification and assistance.

The burn day message is updated at 9 a.m. daily; no burn day will ever start prior to 9 a.m.

BCAA Office Agricultural Burn Line: 509-783-6570 or CLICK HERE

Burning

Burning, whether done indoors for heat or outdoors for recreation, creates unhealthful air pollution. Before burning, you need to know if burning is allowed and under what circumstances. By following the rules, you will keep smoke emissions to a minimum and avoid a potentially costly fine.

Agricultural Burning
In this section learn more about:

  • Agricultural Burning Best Manage Practices
  • Agricultural Burning Rules and permits

Outdoor Burning
In this section, learn more about:

  • Outdoor burning in Benton County – what’s allowed, what’s not
  • Residential, Land Clearing
  • Alternatives to burning
  • Health effects of burning – what you should know

Woodstoves and Fireplaces
In this section learn more about:

  • Key facts about wood heating
  • Air quality requirements related to wood burning
  • Limits on visible chimney smoke (opacity limits)

Outdoor Burning Fact Sheets

Agricultural Burning

The way agricultural burning is being managed is changing in the Northwest, with Washington State leading the way. This change is part of a comprehensive revision of the state’s air pollution laws that affects not just agriculture, but many other commercial, individual and governmental activities. The Clean Air Washington Act of 1991 (Chapter 70.94 RCW) states that those who contribute to air pollution will share the job of protecting air quality.

Agricultural burning is setting fire to:

  • Crop residue after harvest in order to reduce excess plant material and hinder pest infestations
  • Fruit tree debris from orchards after pruning or tree removal
  • Cereal grain (wheat, barley, corn and oats) stubble after harvest

All agricultural burning must follow Best Management Practices. Information on these BMP’s is found here.

Questions about burning

What is “agricultural burning” and how is it different from other forms of burning?

Agricultural burning is one of three kinds of outdoor burning. Outdoor burning also includes silvicultural (forest land) burning, and “open burning” — any other kind of burning outdoors in the open or in containers. As a farm management tool, an estimated 3, 000 to 5,000 agricultural fires are set each year in Washington, with up to 600,000 acres thought to be burned. Studies show that air quality levels can exceed federal health standards in areas affected by outdoor burning, especially from larger fires, or when dispersion of smoke by the wind is poor.

The Washington Clean Air Act (RCW 70.94) protects air quality in the state. Specifically, the RCW requires agricultural permits for commercial agricultural operations that burn natural vegetation as a farm management tool. The law also requires that the grower show the burning is reasonably necessary to carry out the enterprise. Agricultural burning meeting the criteria of the best management practices (identified by the agricultural burning practices and research task force) and where no practical alternative exists automatically satisfies this requirement. For further information, also see WAC 173-430.

Other forms of outdoor burning, such as that which is done at residences within the urban areas are considered to be waste-disposal, not as a management tool. This is primarily why many forms of outdoor burning are being phased out over time.

When is the next agricultural burn day?

Agricultural burn days are not called in advance. The BCAA staff checks for forecast air circulation conditions, which if good, mean that any smoke generated from burning should be diluted enough not to impact the general population. Because wind speed considerations are not taken into account when determining an agricultural burn day, it is the responsibility of the agricultural operation to determine if it is safe to burn or not.

Also, certain types of agricultural burns require a permit while others do not. Be sure that you understand whether or not you need a permit. Burning without a permit may lead to enforcement actions. Please do not hesitate to contact the BCAA office for clarification and assistance.

The burn day message is updated at 9 a.m. daily; no burn day will ever start prior to 9 a.m.

BCAA Office Agricultural Burn Line: 783-6570 or CLICK HERE

Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs)

Agricultural burning is allowed when it is reasonably necessary to carry out the enterprise. A farmer can show burning is reasonably necessary when it meets the criteria of the BMPs and no practical alternative exists. BMPs are one of the ways to demonstrate the need to burn. Growers not using BMPs must establish that their proposed burn is reasonably necessary and that no practical alternative is available. The burden of proof is on the grower, and the demonstration must satisfy the Department of Ecology and the local delegated permitting authority, if there is a local permitting authority.

Permits:

Many kinds of agricultural burning require permits. Information about permit applications, and the regulations upon which these programs are based is found here:

Do I need a permit to burn and how do I get one?

Agricultural Burning Permits and Forms

When is an agricultural burn permit not necessary?

Agricultural Burning Permits and Forms

What about burning?:

Other Agricultural Burning

  • on an commercial orchard
  • on a vineyard
  • on a grass seed farm
  • “flaming” or burning hop roots
  • for non-agricultural purposes (land-clearing)

The Department of Ecology’s page on Agricultural Burning is here.

Benton Clean Air Agency

Benton Clean Air Agency

Burn Decision & UGA Map



Determine whether or not you may burn at your location on residential burn days

Please enter your address to determine whether you are in an urban growth area of Benton County

Notices of Violation

If I am caught burning illegally, what will happen?

Enforcement actions usually begin once the BCAA receives complaints about illegal burning taking place. One of our inspectors is sent to the site to judge the severity of the violation and to document what is going on. The Inspector will try to locate the responsible individual or company and make them aware of the violations. At this point, the fire is required to be extinguished. After the Inspector finishes at the site, one of two things happens, either a warning letter or a Notice of Violation (NOV) is issued.

Warning letters are sent out if the violation was relatively minor or if the burner was uninformed. Once a warning letter is sent, the BCAA generally considers the case closed. If there are further violations after an individual or company has received a warning letter, the enforcement action may increase to an NOV, which is a much firmer form of enforcement.

The NOV is an official enforcement action and should be taken very seriously. Essentially the NOV is a ticket that informs the burner of the laws that were violated and of the Inspector’s findings at the site. The NOV starts the process of a formal case against the burner and cannot be appealed.Thirty days after the burner receives the NOV, the BCAA may assess a penalty in another formal document called a Notice of Penalty (NOP). According to Washington State law, penalties of up to $10,000 per violation per day may be assessed. For example, burning garbage in the city limits one a no-burn day with no mean to put the fire out equates to three violations or a maximum of $30,000 fine. Generally, though the BCAA does not fine to the greatest extent of the law and actual fines can be much lower.

I have received a “Notice of Violation”. What does it mean and what do I do now?

If you have received a Notice of Violation (NOV), it means that you have violated one or more air quality regulations. The NOV serves as official notice of the laws that were violated and of the Inspector’s report on the situation. It is important that you read the NOV very carefully. The NOV cannot be appealed. However, you may send written documentation to the BCAA indicating your understanding of the situation.

Thirty days after you receive your NOV, you may receive a Notice of Penalty (NOP). The NOP is the official notice of a fine being levied against you. You may or may not receive an NOP, as one is assigned on a case-by-case basis. The NOP is appealable and several options are presented in the NOP documentation. Again, you should read the documentation very carefully.

If you have any questions, please contact BCAA.

I have received a “Notice of Penalty”. What does it mean and what do I do now?

if you have received a Notice of Penalty (NOP), it means that thirty days have passed since you received the Notice of Violation (NOV). The NOP is the official notice of a fine being levied against you. The NOP is appealable and several options are presented in the NOP documentation. Again, you should read the documentation very carefully.

Option 1: Pay the fine in full. If you take option 1, your full payment is due within 30 days.

Option 2: Consent Order (CO). (Note: A consent order may or may not be available.) The CO represents a reduced penalty that may be paid in lieu of full payment if you do not commit a similar violation within the next year. By taking the CO, you forfeit the other avenues of mitigation and appeal. Once the paperwork has been filed and signed and the reduced penalty paid (within 30 days), the BCAA considered the case closed. However, if the conditions of the CO are not adhered to, for example a similar future violation within a year, the original penalty is reinstated and an additional NOV and NOP may be issued.

Option 3: Application for Relief of Penalty (ARP). If you feel that the penalty is unjustified and wish to contest the penalty this is the option to take. It is an opportunity to tell your recollection of the events that lead to the NOV. Note, however, that if a reduction of penalty is granted, it will not be less than that offered on the CO. The ARP must be filed within 15 days.

Option 4: Appeal to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board (PCHB).
This is your opportunity to have a day in court. The PCHB is a state level hearing board that will hear the your case. The PCHB has the power to overturn the penalty issued by the BCAA. However, if you choose this option, the PCHB will be considering the full amount of the penalty, not the amount listed in the CO. In most cases, the PCHB does not lower the penalty below that offered on the CO.

If you have any questions about your NOP or your legal options, please contact BCAA.

Also note that there are several timed deadlines that you should follow. Failure to meet specific deadlines nullifies certain avenues of appeal.

Fire Protection Districts

A link to the Fire Protection District Map is here.

City/Region Fire District Phone #
Benton City BCFPD #2 509-588-3212
Benton County (East) BCFPD #1 509-734-9100
Benton County (West) BCFPD #5 509-786-1723
Finley BCFPD #1 509-734-9100
Kennewick Fire Department 509-585-4230
Patterson BCFPD #6 509-875-2029
Plymouth BCFPD #6 509-875-2029
Prosser BCFPD #3 509-786-3873
Prosser (South) BCFPD #5 509-786-1723
Richland Fire Department 509-942-7550
West Richland BCFPD #4 509-967-2945


Smoke Opacity

Smoke Opacity

State law prohibits the generation of excessive chimney smoke. Except for brief periods during start-up and refueling, smoke is in violation when it obscures objects viewed through it by more than 20%.

Generation of smoke densities greater than 20% could result in fines from air pollution control officials. Stoves operated with dry wood and a generous air supply produce less smoke and more heat.

Woodstoves and Fireplaces

Clean Home Heating

Many people don’t think of the smoke from their wood stove or fireplace as air pollution. Some people even like the smell of wood smoke. But wood smoke is one of the main sources of air pollution in Washington.

Wood smoke contains fine particles, PM 2.5, which are associated with serious health effects, as the tiny size of these pollutants allows them to be easily inhaled, bypassing the immune system and proceeding deep into your lungs, where they can cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems, including premature death.

In winter, more than half of Washington’s fine particle air pollution comes from the homes being heated using wood. Wood stoves, fireplaces and other wood-burning devices put out hundreds of times more air pollution than other sources of heat such as natural gas, propane, oil or electricity.

Video on How to Select a New Stove for Home Heat

Video on How to Operate Your Wood Stove More Efficiently

The fire: Give it air!

The right amount of air gives you a hotter fire and more complete combustion. That translates to more heat from your wood and less smoke and pollution. Here are some cleaner burning tips:

  • Build small, hot fires. Don’t add too much fuel at one time.
  • Step outside and check the chimney or flue. If you can see smoke, your fire may need more air.
  • Read and follow the stove manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Don’t “bank” the stove full of wood and damper down the air supply. This wastes wood, produces much air pollution, promotes accumulation of creosote (which requires more frequent cleaning and can lead to chimney fires) and yields very little heat. Half-full is adequate; it provides enough air space for efficient combustion.
  • Don’t damper down too far. Allow enough air to reach the wood. This varies among models and kinds of stoves.
  • Make sure your stove is the right size for your home. Too large a stove will overheat your living space. You’ll want to damper down. This causes added pollution and wastes wood.
  • Don’t burn in moderate temperatures. You’ll want to damper down, which causes more pollution and wastes wood.
  • Don’t burn when air currents carry your smoke to your neighbor’s yard or house.
  • Only burn dry, seasoned firewood, never garbage. Burning garbage is illegal in the state of Washington and creates a greater health hazard.

The fuel: keep it dry!

Wood can seem dry and still contain plenty of water, up to 50 percent. The moisture in wood makes the fire give off more smoke. On the other hand, dry wood can provide up to 44 percent more heat. It is against state law to burn wood with more than 20 percent moisture content in fireplaces or wood stoves.

Two things work very well at making sure your wood is dry enough: time and cover. Whether you buy wood or harvest your own, follow these tips to get it fire-ready:

  • Split it. The wood will dry best and burn most efficiently if the pieces are three and one-half to six inches in diameter.
  • Cover it. Protect the wood from rain and weather. Stack it loosely-in layers of alternating directions- to allow plenty of air circulation. Store it at least six inches off the ground.
  • Give it a year. Wood that has been split, dried and stored under cover for at least one year usually meets the 20 percent moisture content requirement.

State law does not regulate the dryness of any wood sold. If the seller states that the wood is dry or seasoned, consider it a claim; make sure for yourself. You—and not the seller—are responsible for the dryness of the wood you put on your fire.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I burn in my woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue on a “no burn day”?

Yes. Woodstove, fireplace, and barbecue use is unrestricted at all times. The burn day decision does not apply to these devices. The only time when use is restricted is during a statewide air pollution episode, which occurs rarely.

Can I burn paper or garbage in my woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue?

Washington State law prohibits the burning of paper, except that which is necessary to start the fire. Burning large amounts of paper is potentially very dangerous as often large burning embers exit the chimney and can cause fires outside the home. The burning of garbage is strictly prohibited by State law.

How do I know if I am burning correctly in my woodstove or fireplace?

Your woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue must be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Also, the amount of smoke produces by these devices must be minimized. The smoke coming out of your chimney should be almost colorless and thin. Thick, white or black smoke indicates that your fire is not receiving enough air. Woodstoves, fireplaces, and barbecues should be used in such a way as to minimize the impact on neighbors. Here are some additional tips:

  • Burn only dry fuel. Moist wood gives off more smoke and may produce up to 44% less heat.
  • Ideally, burn wood that has been split and dried for one year.
  • Never burn painted, stained or treated wood, colored newsprint, plastic, cardboard, garbage, diapers or magazines.
  • Twenty minutes after starting your fire, check your chimney for smoke. If you see any smoke, it probably exceeds the legal limit. Increase air to the fire for cleaner burning.
  • Burn small hot fires and allow plenty of air to reach the fire. Avoid excessive dampening to extend the duration of the burn, see The Myth of Air-Starved Burning below.
  • Never allow the fire to smolder. Smoldering fires pollute, are inefficient and are a fire hazard.

One myth, which is perhaps the most damaging to air quality and potentially damaging to health and safety, is that there are benefits to starving a wood stove for adequate combustion of air. A fire starved for air is excessively smoky because of incomplete combustion and therefore produces more unburned particulates and gaseous air pollutants than a hot fire with adequate air. Poor combustion also promotes the buildup of creosote in chimneys posing a fire hazard. Carbon monoxide from incomplete combustion can also buildup inside houses posing a direct threat of death by asphyxiation.

This myth had its origin in the 1970’s energy crisis when the popularity of wood stoves increased. Many poorly designed stoves have been marketed that are not air-tight and otherwise have poor combustion air controls. Manufacturers may have recommended, or owners may have discovered, the technique of severely restricting air flow to compensate for poor design. In addition, marginal economics and high labor requirements of wood burning have made conservation of wood a priority, which makes reducing wood consumption yet another excuse for starving wood stove fires for air.

Burning of uncured wood with moisture contents over 20% compounds the problems of poor combustion from air-starved fires by promoting even greater production of air pollutants and creosote. Burning high moisture wood decreases the usable energy from the wood because heat from burning is diverted into evaporating the water rather than heating the air as desired.

What are some of health effects from breathing smoke from woodstove, fireplaces or barbecues?*

Breathing air containing wood smoke can:

  • reduce lung function, especially in children;
  • increase severity of existing lung disease such as asthma, emphysema, pneumonia and bronchitis;
  • aggravate heart disease;
  • increase susceptibility to lower respiratory diseases;
  • irritate eyes, lungs, throat and sinuses;
  • trigger headaches and allergies.

Those at greatest health risk from wood smoke include:

  • fetuses, infants and children;
  • people with lung, heart, circulatory diseases or allergies;
  • the elderly;
  • cigarette smokers and ex-smokers.

Contents of wood smoke:

There are many components to wood smoke that can cause risk to your health. These compounds include:

  • carbon monoxide, fatal in high concentrations;
  • formaldehyde, a possible cause of human cancer;
  • organic gases which may interfere with lung function;
  • nitrogen oxides, linked to hardening of the arteries;
  • tiny smoke particles that lodge in the lungs causing structural damage. These tiny particles, or PM10, are less than 10 microns wide, or about 1/7 the diameter of a human hair.

What if my neighbor’s woodstove or fireplace is producing a strong, foul odor?

The primary cause of foul odors from woodstoves and fireplaces is the burning of green wood. Because green wood contains so much water, it does not burn efficiently and essentially just smolders. Smoldering fires are not hot enough to destroy the bulk of the odors. The solution to such a problem is to burn well-seasoned, dry wood in a hot fire, with lots of air. If you are bothered by a neighbor’s smoke, you should contact the BCAA office or file a complaint

What are the restrictions on buying or selling a used woodstove or fireplace in Benton County?

Since July 1, 1992, only EPA certified wood stoves and fireplace inserts may be legally sold or installed in Washington. There should be a metal tag permanently affixed to the device that will indicate EPA certification. According to Washington State law and BCAA Regulation 1, it is illegal to advertise to sell, offer to sell, sell, bargain, exchange, or give away an uninstalled used uncertified fireplace or woodstove. If you have any questions, please contact the BCAA.

A list of EPA certified woodstoves can be found at the Washington State Department of Ecology Air Program website

Alternatives to Outdoor Burning

Non-Burning Alternatives are available and many residents choose to chip or compost this material to use in their yard and garden. Others may haul their “clean green” to a local recycling transfer station or to a private collection company.

Instead of burning your yard debris, why not try an alternative. The following is a list of several that are available.

Composting

Want bigger, brighter, fuller flowers and county-fair-sized vegetables? Try composting your garden and yard debris. Nothing beats adding compost for soil enrichment. And if you think composting is just a fad of the ’90s, here’s and interesting fact: a Roman statesman named Marcus Cato introduced composting as a way to build up the soil of ancient Rome more that 2,000 years ago. In-the-know gardeners will tell you that nothing makes their gardens grow like a great homemade compost. Creating a balance of wet, “green” materials (such as grass clippings, certain food scraps, and various kinds of manure and dry, “brown” materials (the dry leaves and woody materials that you might previously burned!) creates the perfect compost. The “browns” are really carbon-rich materials and the “greens” are nitrogen-rich products that work together with microbes to build a soil-enriching compost for your garden. Need some more convincing reasons to compost?

Here’s a list of some of the great benefits of composting:

  • Composting is a perfect alternative to open (backyard) burning
  • Composting saves space in the landfill
  • Composing enriches the soil and turns out better plants and vegetables
  • Composting is convenient. Just think, the time and energy you now expend to bag and haul all your garden debris to the trash can, landfill, or transfer station can be turned into a useful product.
  • Composting saves money (less money spent on leaf bags, fertilizers, mulch, bagged compost, peat moss, or other soil enhancements).

For more information on backyard composting, call the Washington State University Cooperative Extension or the Benton County Solid Waste Department (see Resources below) or check out the BCAA Composting flier by clicking the burning tab at the top of the page and then scrolling to the bottom.

Make Your Own Mulch

Mulch is a protective covering for your plants, shrubs, and trees that truly benefits your garden. When it’s spread in garden beds or under shrubs and trees, mulch reduces evaporation, maintains even soil temperature, prevent erosion, controls weeds, and enriches the soil. You can make your own mulch by chipping “brown: or carbon-rich yard debris. Call the Washington State Cooperative Extension or the Benton County Solid Waste Department (see Resources below).

You can find out more information by viewing the BCAA Mulching flier by clicking the burning tab at the top of the page and then scrolling to the bottom.

Use a Mulching Mover for a Healthy Lawn

If you leave “mulched” grass on your lawn instead of burning the clippings, you’re doing your grass, yourself, and the environment a favor. Don’t worry, because this finely chopped grass has a temporary mulching effect but rapidly decomposes to return valuable nutrients to the soil. Together these benefits of a mulching mower help your lawn hold water and reduce fertilizer costs. Over time, the soils in our hot, dry climate become healthier simply from the added organic matter. Perhaps the best benefit is that you spend less time handling grass clippings. You can buy a mulching mower for the same cost as comparable non-mulching mowers and some models even have a mulch/no mulch/bagging option.

Chipping

Large quantities of woody vegetative material from yards, gardens, other landscaping features, or land- clearing can be turned into a useful product. The resulting wood chips can be used for a number of purposes. For more information, check out the BCAA Chipping flier by clicking the burning tab at the top of the page and then scrolling to the bottom.

Landscape Management

In our region, most people prefer irrigated lawns with trees, shrubs and grass for the benefits they provide: cooling, fire protection, and aesthetic environment. If you can incorporate some of the following ideas into your landscaping, you may lessen your yard debris:

Reduce or limit the number of trees and shrubs you plant

  • Plant varieties that minimize debris
  • Plant low-residue plant and native varieties that thrive in our grow zone
  • Consider planting a xeriscape – an urban landscape that decreases yard waste and conserves water as well. In xeriscapes, native or arid-zone adapted plants produce minimum residue and rely on natural rainfall only.

Use the Landfill

Disposing of your yard debris in a landfill is also an alternative to burning. This is especially true for people who can’t take advantage of composting, making mulch, mulching mowers, or installing low-residue landscaping. In other parts of the state, landfill space is at a premium, but in our region, landfill space is not currently a concern. However, disposing as recyclable yard debris in the landfill is an option that should be used only as necessary as a substitute for open burning.

Resources

Washington State University Cooperative Extension
Master Gardener Program
Tri-Cities (509) 735-3551
Prosser (509) 786-2226

Benton County Solid Waste Department
Tri-Cities (509)783-1310 ext 5682
Prosser (509)786-5611

City of Richland
Environmental Education Coordinator
505 Swift Blvd, Richland, WA 99352
(509) 942-7730

City of Kennewick
Solid Waste Environmental Division
210 W 6th Ave, Kennewick, WA 99336
(509) 585-4317

Burning Detail Questions

... tumbleweeds blown on to my property?

Tumbleweeds that have been blown on to your property can be burned at any time, regardless of the burn day and regardless of whether you are inside or outside the Urban Growth Area (UGA). However, only the tumbleweeds can be burned, any other vegetative material to be burned is subject to the rules specific to your location.

... tumbleweeds that are growing on my property?

If the tumbleweeds are growing on your property, you cannot burn them in place.

If tumbleweeds are actually growing on your property, you must obtain a special burn permit in order to burn the tumblewweds in-place. Be aware that therer is a fee charged for a special burn permit. You may want to consider an alternative to burning such as mulching, mowing, or composting. However, you may also want to try to control the weeds before they become a problem by mowing or using a commercial herbicide. For more information you can download a flyer on tumbleweed burning here (PDF).

... in a woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue?

At the present time, in Benton County, there are no restrictions on when you can use your woodstove, barbecue, or fireplace. However, you must burn properly to minimize the impact of smoke on your neighbors.

... for recreation (campfire or bonfire)?

As of April 13, 2000, the definition and rules about recreational fires have changed. Recreational fire means [by definition] cooking fires, campfires, and bonfires using charcoal or firewood that occur in designated areas or on private property for cooking or pleasure purposes (WAC 173-425-030). Fires used for debris disposal are not considered recreational fires. For more information you can download a flyer on recreational fires here (PDF).

Inside the UGA: Recreational fires that are larger than three feet in diameter and two feet high require a permit. Permit conditions may limit the date and time burning is allowed. Recreational fires smaller than 3’x2’ are allowed at any time, regardless of the “burn day”, and do not require a permit.

Outside the UGA: Recreational fires are allowed at any time and do not require a permit.

... in a burn barrel?

As of April 13, 2000, the use of the traditional metal burn barrel is illegal throughout the State. This was done primarily to make the state rule consistent with the Uniform Fire Code.

If you feel that you must use a system similar to the burn barrel, waste disposal is still allowed in an outdoor burning device. This device must be constructed of concrete or masonry with a completely enclosed combustion chamber and a permanently attached iron spark arrester (max 1/2 inch holes). The device can only be used to dispose of natural vegetative debris. Paper, garbage, wood products, and other prohibited materials are illegal to burn.

... construction debris on my property?

The burning of construction debris is prohibited by state law, WAC 173-425-050(2), and by BCAA Regulation 1 Article 5 Section 5.02E. Because of the significant amount of prohibited materials found in construction fires of the past, BCAA Regulation 1 strictly prohibits any fire from occurring on a construction site. This includes the burning of vegetative debris and the burning of tumbleweeds. Burning illegally on a construction site will likely result in a violation and fine.

... on my small/hobby orchard?

Small hobby farms and small orchards are also subject to burning rules and regulations. If the farm or orchard sells what it produces and files a Schedule F with its income taxes, the farm is considered to be a commercial operation and is subject to the agricultural burning rules. All other farms and orchards are considered to be non-commercial. As with residential burning of yard waste, the location of the property is important.

Because outdoor burning have been substantially banned within the UGA, there are no “burn days” per se that farms and orchards may use for waste disposal. The only option available for farms and orchards within the UGA is to apply for a Special Burning Permit. Please contact us for information and details.

Outside the UGA, a farm or orchard can burn its dry, natural vegetation as long as there is a burn day. Burn day status is available by calling 946-4489. However, the farm cannot clear fields and steps must be taken to minimize the impact of the smoke on neighbors. Failure to comply with these additional restrictions could result in enforcement action.

If there are any questions concerning burning on hobby farms and orchards, please contact us.

... on a lot or area that is a fire hazard?

Brush and weeds on a piece of property can be considered a fire hazard. However, you will need to have your local fire department come to your property and declare it a fire hazard. In addition, the fire department must agree that burning the material would be the safest way to eliminate the hazard; in most cases alternatives, such as mowing, are equally effective. If the fire department determines that the fire hazard would be reduced by burning, then the BCAA will issue a permit to burn the material.

Frequently Asked Questions about Outdoor Burning

What are some alternatives to burning?

Information on Alternatives to Burning is here.

My residence is inside the Urban Growth Area (UGA) of Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Prosser, or Benton City, can I burn?

The Washington Administrative Code (WAC) required that residential and land clearing burning in urban growth areas of cities larger than 5,000 be banned as of January 1, 2001. For cities smaller than 5,000, such as Benton City, outdoor burning was allowed until January 1, 2004. However, as of January 1, burning is now banned in the UGA of Benton City as well. Recent changes in the State law have further defined what types of burning can or cannot take place within the urban growth areas. Based on these changes, the following is a summary list of the applicable rules for burning in the urban growth areas of Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Prosser, and Benton City.

If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the Urban Growth Area (UGA), you may search your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304 .

PROHIBITED

  • burning yard debris (leaves, branches, etc.) at your property
  • transferring material from Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Prosser, or Benton City to outside the UGA for the purpose of burning the material
  • the use of burn barrels
  • burning for land-clearing purposes
  • burning tumbleweeds that are growing on your property
  • burning garbage, dead animals, asphalt, petroleum products, paints, rubber products, plastics, paper (other than what is necessary to start the fire), cardboard, treated wood, construction debris, metal, or any substance (other than natural vegetation) which when burned releases toxic emissions, dense smoke, or odors.” (WAC 173-425-050(2))

ALLOWED WITH A PERMIT

  • burning a recreational fire greater than 3 feet in diameter.

ALLOWED WITHOUT A PERMIT

  • burning a recreational fire that is less than 3 feet in diameter
  • burning tumbleweeds that blew on to your property

Can I burn? My residence is outside the Urban Growth Area.

If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the UGA, you may search your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304.

If you have confirmed that your residence is outside of the urban growth area, you may burn under the residential burning rules.

In 1995, the Washington State legislature changed some of the burning rules and how they were applied in different parts of the State. For those residents outside of the UGA, the following rules apply:

PROHIBITED

  • burning garbage, dead animals, asphalt, petroleum products, paints, rubber products, plastics, paper (other than what is necessary to start the fire), cardboard, treated wood, construction debris, metal, or any substance (other than natural vegetation) which when burned releases toxic emissions, dense smoke, or odors.” (WAC 173-425-050(2))

PROHIBITED AS OF JAN 1, 2001

  • the use of burn barrels

ALLOWED ON A BURN DAY You must have a burn day before you may burn. The burn message, updated by 9 AM, is 509-783-6198.

  • Only material generated at your residence can be burned.
  • Only dry, natural vegetation can be burned. Burning paper (other than enough to start fire), plastic, lumber, building debris, and garbage is strictly prohibited.
  • Someone must be in attendance of the fire at all times and be able to put out the fire if necessary.
  • No fires are allowed within 50 feet of any flammable structure.
  • The pile size is limited to 4 ft by 4 ft by 3 ft high.
  • Only one pile can be burned at a time. Continually feeding material into one fire is OK.
  • The fire must be extinguished if it creates a nuisance.
  • You can only burn at your residential property or the property owner’s permission must be obtained prior to burning.
  • Your fire must be completely extinguished by the end of the burn day.

ALLOWED WITH A PERMIT

  • burning for weed abatement (including tumbleweeds growing on your property)
  • burning a recreational fire greater than 3 feet in diameter.

What is an “Urban Growth Area” and how do I know if my residence is inside or outside?

The applicable open burning regulations depend upon where the property is located with respect to the “Urban Growth Area”, or UGA. The urban growth area (UGA) is defined by a line that the incorporated cities (Richland, Kennewick, West Richland, Benton City, and Prosser) expect to grow into during the next 20 years. The UGA includes all the city limits, the “islands” of County within the cities, and some parts of County land immediately adjacent to the city limits. Those properties that lie inside of this boundary have different burning rules than those properties lying outside the boundary. If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the UGA, you may search for your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304.

Urban Growth Area Maps are here.

I can’t meet some or all of the burn rules, is there another way I can burn legally?

Many of the burn rules are, in many cases, restrictive by design. By creating these rules, the State can reduce the amount of burning taking place in the urban areas, reducing both air pollution and fire risk. However, there are circumstances where the BCAA can allow an individual or company to burn outside of these rules.

A Special Burn Permit may be issued under specific circumstances. The permit has an associated fee that is assessed in two parts. First, there is a $75 non-refundable application fee that must accompany the written application. This allows the BCAA Inspector to process the application and if necessary, inspect the materials to be burned prior to burning. The application can either be accepted or rejected at this point. If accepted, there is an additional charge of no more than $8.50 per cubic yard of material to be burned. The fees must be paid within 30 days of the permit being issued. A permit is issued that is specific to the applicant’s type of burning. The permit conditions often will allow more “burn days” than would be available under the urban are spring and fall burn windows.

If you would like to apply for a Special Burn Permit, the application is Special Burn Permit Request along with the fee, to the BCAA. If you have any questions, please contact us.

How does the BCAA determine whether or not to allow a “burn day”?

Information on how the daily burn decision is made is here.

“What about burning” answers to these questions are found here:*

  • tumbleweeds blown on to my property?
  • tumbleweeds that are growing on my property?
  • in a woodstove, barbecue, or fireplace?
  • for recreation (campfire or bonfire)?
  • in a burn barrel?
  • construction debris on my property?
  • on my small/hobby orchard?
  • on a lot or area that is a fire hazard?

How do I build a good, hot fire, that does not produce a lot of smoke? The Boy Scouts of America recommend when burning a fire:

1. Use dry, seasoned wood. Do not burn material that has just been cut or has been soaked by moisture. 2. Use a mixture of material of different sizes and thickness. Start with small tinder: like dry moss or really dry pine needles. Next, put kindling into the fire. Kindling are small pieces of wood no larger than the width of one of your fingers. Arrange your third and last material, the “fuel” (larger material), in a teepee type style. Put a break in the pattern, like a door to the teepee, facing into the wind. This break allows the breeze to blow into the fire and creates a hotter, more efficient fire. 3. Light your fire with matches, no fuel (gasoline, lighter fluid, etc.) should be necessary, through the door of the teepee. Start by lighting the tinder, the tinder will then catch the remaining material on fire. Add material as the fire burns hot and quickly.

My property is zoned agriculture. Do I follow the open burning rules or the agricultural burning rules?

State law views residential burning and agricultural burning as two separate issues, both with associated laws. In order to qualify an agricultural burn permit you must show evidence of agricultural activity taking place, usually in the form of supplying a copy of the IRS form Schedule F: Profit and Loss from Farming. Only those operations with proof of an agricultural operation will be issued an agricultural burn permit. The zoning regulations are local regulations and do not apply to burning applications. Areas which are zoned agriculture, but do not supply this proof, must comply with the general rule burn rules and the “burn days”.

Urban Growth Area Information

The applicable open burning regulations depend upon where the property is located with respect to the “Urban Growth Area”, or UGA. The urban growth area (UGA) is defined by a line that the incorporated cities (Richland, Kennewick, West Richland, Benton City, and Prosser) expect to grow into during the next 20 years. The UGA includes all the city limits, the “islands” of County within the cities, and some parts of County land immediately adjacent to the city limits. Those properties that lie inside of this boundary have different burning rules than those properties lying outside the boundary. If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the UGA, you can search your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304.

Regulations

Ecology’s rule on Outdoor Burning is here.

Daily Burn Decision

This information applies only to residents that live outside of the urban growth area. If you are inside the city limits of Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Benton City, or Prosser you are never allowed to burn yard debris at your residence. Also please note, that just because your property is outside of city limits, does not mean that you are also outside the urban growth area. To search whether your address is within an urban growth area, click here. You may also call the Benton County Planning Dept. or Benton Clean Air Agency for help determining whether you are inside or outside the urban growth area.

The Residential and Agricultural burn line numbers can be found in the top left corner of the page. Please call to find out the current conditions and restrictions. The daily burn decision is also available here.

The burn decision is made every morning prior to 9:00 am and is based on that day’s forecasted meteorological conditions. If necessary, the burn lines are updated to reflect the status of the burn decision. Should conditions unexpectedly change, the burn line may be updated as needed.

When making the burn decision, the BCAA utilizes information from the National Weather Service and a modeling forecast produced by the University of WA, in cooperation with the Dept of Ecology. This modeling forecast is called the “MM5” and gives a projected forecast of the atmospheric dispersion conditions, throughout the state, at different times throughout the day.

These tools are used uniformly throughout most of the state in making the daily agricultural burn decision. Forecasted wind speeds are not a primary factor in determining agricultural burn days in Benton County. Fire safety is the responsibility of the farmers. Wind warnings are given on the burn day message for surface wind speeds forecasted above 15 mph.

The residential burn decision is based on the same information used to make the agricultural burn decision. However, in consideration for fire safety and at the request of our local fire departments, wind speed is taken into consideration. When the surface wind speeds from the National Weather Service office in Pendleton, OR for the Columbia Basin are forecast to exceed 20 mph, residential burning will not be allowed. For forecasted surface wind speeds between 15 and 20 mph, a wind warning is issued.

For outdoor burning, the Benton Clean Air Agency allows burning generally only when dispersion conditions are forecasted to be good.

Bright sunny days are frequently not good smoke dispersion days and are characterized by high pressure systems. The latter characteristically has descending air masses, low mixing level ceilings, and little horizontal air movement. Known in meteorology as stable air masses, all the factors associated with these air masses combine to limit the both the volume and vertical mixing of near-surface air. Air pollutants emitted into the air under these conditions from any source, one of which may be outdoor burning, are effectively trapped and do not disperse by vertical mixing and horizontal transport at higher altitudes.

In contrast, low pressure weather systems are characterized by unstable air that is rising and frequently turbulent. Both vertical mixing with high elevation mixing levels and horizontal air movement very effectively dilute and disperse air pollutants emitted into the air.

Unfortunately, these meteorologically unstable air masses frequently have high wind speeds and gusty wind plus precipitation. High gusty wind conditions pose a fire safety hazard.

Outdoor Burning

Residential Burning Program

Under the residential burning program, only residents located outside of the Urban Growth Area are allowed to burn. Residents outside the UGA must still call the residential burn line to find out whether or not it is a burn day. The phone number is located at the top of the page, and is updated on a daily basis. You may also find the burn decision, here.

To search whether your address is within an Urban Growth Area of Benton County, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page.

If it is a burn day, and you are located outside of the UGA, the following burning rules apply:

  • Only dry natural vegetation may be burned
  • Only one pile at a time may be burned, and the pile must be extinguished before ingniting another
  • The pile must be no larger than 4 feet by 4 feet by 3 feet tall
  • The fire must be located 50 feet from all flamable structures
  • You must be in attendance of the fire at all times
  • You must not create a nuisance with the smoke from your fire
  • The use of burn barrels is prohibited

Failure to adhere to these rules may result in the issuance of a violation and/or fine.

Residents Inside The Urban Growth Area

Residents located inside the Urban Growth Area are not allowed to burn for disposal purposes.

The following types of burning are allowed inside the Urban Growth Area:

1. Burning of tumbleweeds that have blown on to your property using the following guidelines:
- You must call the burn line to see if tumbleweed burning has been banned due to high winds or fire safety
- You must not create a nuisance with the smoke
- You must be in attendance of the fire at all times
- The use of burn barrels is prohibited

2. Recreational Fires using the following guidelines:
- The fire must not be larger than 3 feet by 3 feet by 2 feet tall
- You must be in attendance at all times
- Only dry, seasoned firewood may be used; The fire cannot be used for disposal purposes
- The fire must be 50 feet from all flammable structures
- You must not create a nuisnace with the smoke
- The use of burn barrels is prohibited

3. Barbeques

4. Woodstoves

Failure to adhere to the guidelines listed above may result in a violation and/or fine.

Fees

A. An application fee for an agricultural burning permit shall be due and payable at the time of submittal of the application.

B. Upon approval of any agricultural burning permit application, the BCAA shall charge a fee at a maximum fee level as set by statute.

C. Minimum and variable fee levels are as follows:

  • Thirty seven dollars and fifty cents ($37.50) per calendar year per field burn based on burning up to ten acres or equivalent; Each additional acre is $3.75 per acre.
  • Eighty dollars ($80.00) for pile burning per calendar year per agricultural operation based on burning debris from up to 80 tons or equivalent; Each additional ton is $1.00 per ton.

The agricultural burning practices and research task force may set acreage equivalents, for non-field style agricultural burning practices, based on the amount of emissions relative to typical field burning emissions. Any acreage equivalents, established by rule, shall be used in determining fees. For agricultural burning conducted by irrigation or drainage districts, each mile of ditch (including banks) burned is calculated on an equivalent acreage basis.

For a complete breakdown of the fee schedule, click here.

Agricultural Burning Permits and Forms

Most commercial burning of agricultural fields or for agricultural purposes requires a permit from the BCAA.

Agricultural Permit is required for ..

  • Orchard or vineyard takeout
  • Vineyard prunings
  • Disease or weed control
  • Residue removal
  • Research/demonstration project
  • Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) or renovation purposes
  • “Flaming” of hop roots

Agricultural Permit is not required* for ..

  • Orchard prunings
  • Natural vegetation along fencelines, irrigation canals, or drainage ditches.
  • Tumbleweeds

*NOTE: Conversion of agricultural property to commercial or residential use, such as removal of an orchard to put in a housing development is not considered agricultural burning and is not allowed with an agricultural burn permit.

Regardless of whether the agricultural burn requires a permit, you must contact your local fire department and inform them prior to burning.

Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs)

Agricultural burning is allowed when it is reasonably necessary to carry out the enterprise. A farmer can show burning is reasonably necessary when it meets the criteria of the BMPs and no practical alternative exists. BMPs are one of the ways to demonstrate the need to burn. Growers not using BMPs must establish that their proposed burn is reasonably necessary and that no practical alternative is available. The burden of proof is on the grower, and the demonstration must satisfy the Department of Ecology and the local delegated permitting authority, if there is a local permitting authority.

Current BMP Information:

  • Agricultural Burning Best Management Practices – click here

Permit Applications

Before an agricultural burn permit is issued, an application must be submitted and processed. You will need both the permit application and a copy of one of the Best Management Guidelines documents:

The following steps describe the application procedure:

  • Fill out the application. Be specific and COMPLETE. Refer to the Best Management Practices Guidance document as necessary. Incomplete applications will not be processed.
  • Calculate the total acres/tons and fee In the space provided, write the number of acres/tons from each of the proposed burns. Add together the acres/tons of each proposed burn, this is the number of acres/tons proposed.
  • Make checks payable to BCAA. Please do not send cash.
  • Sign and date the applicant statement portion.
  • Send the application and check for the permit fee to:

Benton Clean Air Agency
526 S. Steptoe St.
Kennewick, WA 99336

Receiving Your Permit

The BCAA will act on a complete application within seven (7) days and either send to you a permit or written reason why the application has been denied. If an incomplete application is submitted, it will be returned along with the fee.

Agricultural Burning Regulations

There are three sources of agricultural burning regulations which pertain to the residents of Benton County:

What About Burning ...

… on an orchard?

Burning on an orchard is considered agricultural burning and is subject to WAC 173-430. In order to burn you must have filed a Schedule F (Profit and Loss from Farming) form with the IRS. If you have not, you may not burn for agricultural purposes and may be cited for burning in your orchard.

The same laws that govern other types of agricultural burning also regulate burning on an orchard. There are, however, some differences relating to the reasons why a particular burn is being conducted. It is important that the orchardist is well informed prior to burning on orchard lands in order to lessen the chances for enforcement action.

There are three types of burning that can take place on an orchard, each with differing requirements.

  • Crop Rotation: Tree removal with intent to replace with different tree “crop”

Orchardists who plan to change crops by removing existing trees and replacing with another tree type or a different agricultural product, will need to apply for an Agricultural Burn Permit. Burning the “old” trees are subject to the conditions on the permit and burning is limited to agricultural “burn days”.

  • Crop Removal: Tree removal with intent to change land use, for example using the land for a housing development

In many cases, orchards are converted to some other land use, such as a housing development. Since the land will no longer be used for agricultural purposes the trees that are removed cannot be burned under an Agricultural Burning Permit. However, a Special Burn Permit can be used for this purpose. The Special Burn Permit carries a non-refundable $50 application fee plus an additional fee based upon the total volume of material to be burned (maximum $8.50 per cubic yard). A Special Burn Permit application can be downloaded (PDF).

  • Orchard prunings

A permit is not needed to burn tree prunings. Prunings can be burned at any time regardless of the agricultural “burn day”. However, care must be taken so that the smoke does not impact neighboring residents. By causing impact on residents, the fire may need to be extinguished and depending upon circumstances, possible BCAA enforcement action may apply.

... on a vineyard?

After much deliberation with the WSU Cooperative Extension and with several vinyardists, it was established that vineyard prunings do not fall into the same category as orchard prunings. As such, any burning on a vineyard requires an Agricultural Burning Permit and needs to follow the general agricultural burn rules.

... on a grass seed farm?

Most grass-seed field burning in Washington State has been ended by the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology). Ecology has officially certified alternatives to grass seed field burning that are practical and reasonably available. Ecology has also determined that mechanical residue management is a viable and reasonable available alternative in most cases. Only under limited specific situations may some burning of grass-seed fields take place. For more information contact the BCAA Inspector Rob Rodger , or go to the Department of Ecology Air Program.

... “flaming” or burning hop roots?

The BCAA and the Department of Ecology considers “flaming” and the burning of hop roots to be agricultural burning. As such, this type of burning requires an Agricultural Burning permit and need to follow the general agricultural burn rules.

... for non-agricultural purposes (land-clearing)?

An agricultural burn permit can only be used in circumstances that directly affect the propagation of field crops. An example would be the burning or wheat stubble, or the removal of an orchard to plant new fruit trees. However, if agricultural purposes will be ceased on a property and the land is to be cleared for another purpose, such as a housing development, an agricultural burning permit cannot be used for this purpose and a special burn permit is required. A Special Burn permit carries a non-refundable $50 application fee plus a negotiable $8.50 per cubic yard of to-be-burned material fee. An application for a Special Burn Permit can be downloaded (PDF).

Special Burn Permit Request

Agricultural Burning Regulations

  • Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 173-430 click here

Agricultural Daily Burn Decision

When is the next burn day?

Agricultural Burn Day

Burn days are not called in advance. BCAA staff checks for forecasted air dispersion conditions, which if they meet the critieria, mean that any smoke generated from burning should be diluted enough not to impact the general population. Wind speeds are also taken into consideration when making the daily decision. If strong winds are forcasted, incidental burning may also not be allowed in addition to permitted burning.

Also, most types of agricultural burns require a permit, others do not. Be sure that you understand whether or not you need a permit. Burning without a permit may lead to enforcement actions. Please do not hesitate to contact the BCAA office for clarification and assistance.

The burn day message is updated at 9 a.m. daily; no burn day will ever start prior to 9 a.m.

BCAA Office Agricultural Burn Line: 509-783-6570 or CLICK HERE

Burning

Burning, whether done indoors for heat or outdoors for recreation, creates unhealthful air pollution. Before burning, you need to know if burning is allowed and under what circumstances. By following the rules, you will keep smoke emissions to a minimum and avoid a potentially costly fine.

Agricultural Burning
In this section learn more about:

  • Agricultural Burning Best Manage Practices
  • Agricultural Burning Rules and permits

Outdoor Burning
In this section, learn more about:

  • Outdoor burning in Benton County – what’s allowed, what’s not
  • Residential, Land Clearing
  • Alternatives to burning
  • Health effects of burning – what you should know

Woodstoves and Fireplaces
In this section learn more about:

  • Key facts about wood heating
  • Air quality requirements related to wood burning
  • Limits on visible chimney smoke (opacity limits)

Outdoor Burning Fact Sheets

Agricultural Burning

The way agricultural burning is being managed is changing in the Northwest, with Washington State leading the way. This change is part of a comprehensive revision of the state’s air pollution laws that affects not just agriculture, but many other commercial, individual and governmental activities. The Clean Air Washington Act of 1991 (Chapter 70.94 RCW) states that those who contribute to air pollution will share the job of protecting air quality.

Agricultural burning is setting fire to:

  • Crop residue after harvest in order to reduce excess plant material and hinder pest infestations
  • Fruit tree debris from orchards after pruning or tree removal
  • Cereal grain (wheat, barley, corn and oats) stubble after harvest

All agricultural burning must follow Best Management Practices. Information on these BMP’s is found here.

Questions about burning

What is “agricultural burning” and how is it different from other forms of burning?

Agricultural burning is one of three kinds of outdoor burning. Outdoor burning also includes silvicultural (forest land) burning, and “open burning” — any other kind of burning outdoors in the open or in containers. As a farm management tool, an estimated 3, 000 to 5,000 agricultural fires are set each year in Washington, with up to 600,000 acres thought to be burned. Studies show that air quality levels can exceed federal health standards in areas affected by outdoor burning, especially from larger fires, or when dispersion of smoke by the wind is poor.

The Washington Clean Air Act (RCW 70.94) protects air quality in the state. Specifically, the RCW requires agricultural permits for commercial agricultural operations that burn natural vegetation as a farm management tool. The law also requires that the grower show the burning is reasonably necessary to carry out the enterprise. Agricultural burning meeting the criteria of the best management practices (identified by the agricultural burning practices and research task force) and where no practical alternative exists automatically satisfies this requirement. For further information, also see WAC 173-430.

Other forms of outdoor burning, such as that which is done at residences within the urban areas are considered to be waste-disposal, not as a management tool. This is primarily why many forms of outdoor burning are being phased out over time.

When is the next agricultural burn day?

Agricultural burn days are not called in advance. The BCAA staff checks for forecast air circulation conditions, which if good, mean that any smoke generated from burning should be diluted enough not to impact the general population. Because wind speed considerations are not taken into account when determining an agricultural burn day, it is the responsibility of the agricultural operation to determine if it is safe to burn or not.

Also, certain types of agricultural burns require a permit while others do not. Be sure that you understand whether or not you need a permit. Burning without a permit may lead to enforcement actions. Please do not hesitate to contact the BCAA office for clarification and assistance.

The burn day message is updated at 9 a.m. daily; no burn day will ever start prior to 9 a.m.

BCAA Office Agricultural Burn Line: 783-6570 or CLICK HERE

Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs)

Agricultural burning is allowed when it is reasonably necessary to carry out the enterprise. A farmer can show burning is reasonably necessary when it meets the criteria of the BMPs and no practical alternative exists. BMPs are one of the ways to demonstrate the need to burn. Growers not using BMPs must establish that their proposed burn is reasonably necessary and that no practical alternative is available. The burden of proof is on the grower, and the demonstration must satisfy the Department of Ecology and the local delegated permitting authority, if there is a local permitting authority.

Permits:

Many kinds of agricultural burning require permits. Information about permit applications, and the regulations upon which these programs are based is found here:

Do I need a permit to burn and how do I get one?

Agricultural Burning Permits and Forms

When is an agricultural burn permit not necessary?

Agricultural Burning Permits and Forms

What about burning?:

Other Agricultural Burning

  • on an commercial orchard
  • on a vineyard
  • on a grass seed farm
  • “flaming” or burning hop roots
  • for non-agricultural purposes (land-clearing)

The Department of Ecology’s page on Agricultural Burning is here.

Benton Clean Air Agency

Benton Clean Air Agency

Burn Decision & UGA Map



Determine whether or not you may burn at your location on residential burn days

Please enter your address to determine whether you are in an urban growth area of Benton County

Notices of Violation

If I am caught burning illegally, what will happen?

Enforcement actions usually begin once the BCAA receives complaints about illegal burning taking place. One of our inspectors is sent to the site to judge the severity of the violation and to document what is going on. The Inspector will try to locate the responsible individual or company and make them aware of the violations. At this point, the fire is required to be extinguished. After the Inspector finishes at the site, one of two things happens, either a warning letter or a Notice of Violation (NOV) is issued.

Warning letters are sent out if the violation was relatively minor or if the burner was uninformed. Once a warning letter is sent, the BCAA generally considers the case closed. If there are further violations after an individual or company has received a warning letter, the enforcement action may increase to an NOV, which is a much firmer form of enforcement.

The NOV is an official enforcement action and should be taken very seriously. Essentially the NOV is a ticket that informs the burner of the laws that were violated and of the Inspector’s findings at the site. The NOV starts the process of a formal case against the burner and cannot be appealed.Thirty days after the burner receives the NOV, the BCAA may assess a penalty in another formal document called a Notice of Penalty (NOP). According to Washington State law, penalties of up to $10,000 per violation per day may be assessed. For example, burning garbage in the city limits one a no-burn day with no mean to put the fire out equates to three violations or a maximum of $30,000 fine. Generally, though the BCAA does not fine to the greatest extent of the law and actual fines can be much lower.

I have received a “Notice of Violation”. What does it mean and what do I do now?

If you have received a Notice of Violation (NOV), it means that you have violated one or more air quality regulations. The NOV serves as official notice of the laws that were violated and of the Inspector’s report on the situation. It is important that you read the NOV very carefully. The NOV cannot be appealed. However, you may send written documentation to the BCAA indicating your understanding of the situation.

Thirty days after you receive your NOV, you may receive a Notice of Penalty (NOP). The NOP is the official notice of a fine being levied against you. You may or may not receive an NOP, as one is assigned on a case-by-case basis. The NOP is appealable and several options are presented in the NOP documentation. Again, you should read the documentation very carefully.

If you have any questions, please contact BCAA.

I have received a “Notice of Penalty”. What does it mean and what do I do now?

if you have received a Notice of Penalty (NOP), it means that thirty days have passed since you received the Notice of Violation (NOV). The NOP is the official notice of a fine being levied against you. The NOP is appealable and several options are presented in the NOP documentation. Again, you should read the documentation very carefully.

Option 1: Pay the fine in full. If you take option 1, your full payment is due within 30 days.

Option 2: Consent Order (CO). (Note: A consent order may or may not be available.) The CO represents a reduced penalty that may be paid in lieu of full payment if you do not commit a similar violation within the next year. By taking the CO, you forfeit the other avenues of mitigation and appeal. Once the paperwork has been filed and signed and the reduced penalty paid (within 30 days), the BCAA considered the case closed. However, if the conditions of the CO are not adhered to, for example a similar future violation within a year, the original penalty is reinstated and an additional NOV and NOP may be issued.

Option 3: Application for Relief of Penalty (ARP). If you feel that the penalty is unjustified and wish to contest the penalty this is the option to take. It is an opportunity to tell your recollection of the events that lead to the NOV. Note, however, that if a reduction of penalty is granted, it will not be less than that offered on the CO. The ARP must be filed within 15 days.

Option 4: Appeal to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board (PCHB).
This is your opportunity to have a day in court. The PCHB is a state level hearing board that will hear the your case. The PCHB has the power to overturn the penalty issued by the BCAA. However, if you choose this option, the PCHB will be considering the full amount of the penalty, not the amount listed in the CO. In most cases, the PCHB does not lower the penalty below that offered on the CO.

If you have any questions about your NOP or your legal options, please contact BCAA.

Also note that there are several timed deadlines that you should follow. Failure to meet specific deadlines nullifies certain avenues of appeal.

Fire Protection Districts

A link to the Fire Protection District Map is here.

City/Region Fire District Phone #
Benton City BCFPD #2 509-588-3212
Benton County (East) BCFPD #1 509-734-9100
Benton County (West) BCFPD #5 509-786-1723
Finley BCFPD #1 509-734-9100
Kennewick Fire Department 509-585-4230
Patterson BCFPD #6 509-875-2029
Plymouth BCFPD #6 509-875-2029
Prosser BCFPD #3 509-786-3873
Prosser (South) BCFPD #5 509-786-1723
Richland Fire Department 509-942-7550
West Richland BCFPD #4 509-967-2945


Smoke Opacity

Smoke Opacity

State law prohibits the generation of excessive chimney smoke. Except for brief periods during start-up and refueling, smoke is in violation when it obscures objects viewed through it by more than 20%.

Generation of smoke densities greater than 20% could result in fines from air pollution control officials. Stoves operated with dry wood and a generous air supply produce less smoke and more heat.

Woodstoves and Fireplaces

Clean Home Heating

Many people don’t think of the smoke from their wood stove or fireplace as air pollution. Some people even like the smell of wood smoke. But wood smoke is one of the main sources of air pollution in Washington.

Wood smoke contains fine particles, PM 2.5, which are associated with serious health effects, as the tiny size of these pollutants allows them to be easily inhaled, bypassing the immune system and proceeding deep into your lungs, where they can cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems, including premature death.

In winter, more than half of Washington’s fine particle air pollution comes from the homes being heated using wood. Wood stoves, fireplaces and other wood-burning devices put out hundreds of times more air pollution than other sources of heat such as natural gas, propane, oil or electricity.

Video on How to Select a New Stove for Home Heat

Video on How to Operate Your Wood Stove More Efficiently

The fire: Give it air!

The right amount of air gives you a hotter fire and more complete combustion. That translates to more heat from your wood and less smoke and pollution. Here are some cleaner burning tips:

  • Build small, hot fires. Don’t add too much fuel at one time.
  • Step outside and check the chimney or flue. If you can see smoke, your fire may need more air.
  • Read and follow the stove manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Don’t “bank” the stove full of wood and damper down the air supply. This wastes wood, produces much air pollution, promotes accumulation of creosote (which requires more frequent cleaning and can lead to chimney fires) and yields very little heat. Half-full is adequate; it provides enough air space for efficient combustion.
  • Don’t damper down too far. Allow enough air to reach the wood. This varies among models and kinds of stoves.
  • Make sure your stove is the right size for your home. Too large a stove will overheat your living space. You’ll want to damper down. This causes added pollution and wastes wood.
  • Don’t burn in moderate temperatures. You’ll want to damper down, which causes more pollution and wastes wood.
  • Don’t burn when air currents carry your smoke to your neighbor’s yard or house.
  • Only burn dry, seasoned firewood, never garbage. Burning garbage is illegal in the state of Washington and creates a greater health hazard.

The fuel: keep it dry!

Wood can seem dry and still contain plenty of water, up to 50 percent. The moisture in wood makes the fire give off more smoke. On the other hand, dry wood can provide up to 44 percent more heat. It is against state law to burn wood with more than 20 percent moisture content in fireplaces or wood stoves.

Two things work very well at making sure your wood is dry enough: time and cover. Whether you buy wood or harvest your own, follow these tips to get it fire-ready:

  • Split it. The wood will dry best and burn most efficiently if the pieces are three and one-half to six inches in diameter.
  • Cover it. Protect the wood from rain and weather. Stack it loosely-in layers of alternating directions- to allow plenty of air circulation. Store it at least six inches off the ground.
  • Give it a year. Wood that has been split, dried and stored under cover for at least one year usually meets the 20 percent moisture content requirement.

State law does not regulate the dryness of any wood sold. If the seller states that the wood is dry or seasoned, consider it a claim; make sure for yourself. You—and not the seller—are responsible for the dryness of the wood you put on your fire.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I burn in my woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue on a “no burn day”?

Yes. Woodstove, fireplace, and barbecue use is unrestricted at all times. The burn day decision does not apply to these devices. The only time when use is restricted is during a statewide air pollution episode, which occurs rarely.

Can I burn paper or garbage in my woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue?

Washington State law prohibits the burning of paper, except that which is necessary to start the fire. Burning large amounts of paper is potentially very dangerous as often large burning embers exit the chimney and can cause fires outside the home. The burning of garbage is strictly prohibited by State law.

How do I know if I am burning correctly in my woodstove or fireplace?

Your woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue must be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Also, the amount of smoke produces by these devices must be minimized. The smoke coming out of your chimney should be almost colorless and thin. Thick, white or black smoke indicates that your fire is not receiving enough air. Woodstoves, fireplaces, and barbecues should be used in such a way as to minimize the impact on neighbors. Here are some additional tips:

  • Burn only dry fuel. Moist wood gives off more smoke and may produce up to 44% less heat.
  • Ideally, burn wood that has been split and dried for one year.
  • Never burn painted, stained or treated wood, colored newsprint, plastic, cardboard, garbage, diapers or magazines.
  • Twenty minutes after starting your fire, check your chimney for smoke. If you see any smoke, it probably exceeds the legal limit. Increase air to the fire for cleaner burning.
  • Burn small hot fires and allow plenty of air to reach the fire. Avoid excessive dampening to extend the duration of the burn, see The Myth of Air-Starved Burning below.
  • Never allow the fire to smolder. Smoldering fires pollute, are inefficient and are a fire hazard.

One myth, which is perhaps the most damaging to air quality and potentially damaging to health and safety, is that there are benefits to starving a wood stove for adequate combustion of air. A fire starved for air is excessively smoky because of incomplete combustion and therefore produces more unburned particulates and gaseous air pollutants than a hot fire with adequate air. Poor combustion also promotes the buildup of creosote in chimneys posing a fire hazard. Carbon monoxide from incomplete combustion can also buildup inside houses posing a direct threat of death by asphyxiation.

This myth had its origin in the 1970’s energy crisis when the popularity of wood stoves increased. Many poorly designed stoves have been marketed that are not air-tight and otherwise have poor combustion air controls. Manufacturers may have recommended, or owners may have discovered, the technique of severely restricting air flow to compensate for poor design. In addition, marginal economics and high labor requirements of wood burning have made conservation of wood a priority, which makes reducing wood consumption yet another excuse for starving wood stove fires for air.

Burning of uncured wood with moisture contents over 20% compounds the problems of poor combustion from air-starved fires by promoting even greater production of air pollutants and creosote. Burning high moisture wood decreases the usable energy from the wood because heat from burning is diverted into evaporating the water rather than heating the air as desired.

What are some of health effects from breathing smoke from woodstove, fireplaces or barbecues?*

Breathing air containing wood smoke can:

  • reduce lung function, especially in children;
  • increase severity of existing lung disease such as asthma, emphysema, pneumonia and bronchitis;
  • aggravate heart disease;
  • increase susceptibility to lower respiratory diseases;
  • irritate eyes, lungs, throat and sinuses;
  • trigger headaches and allergies.

Those at greatest health risk from wood smoke include:

  • fetuses, infants and children;
  • people with lung, heart, circulatory diseases or allergies;
  • the elderly;
  • cigarette smokers and ex-smokers.

Contents of wood smoke:

There are many components to wood smoke that can cause risk to your health. These compounds include:

  • carbon monoxide, fatal in high concentrations;
  • formaldehyde, a possible cause of human cancer;
  • organic gases which may interfere with lung function;
  • nitrogen oxides, linked to hardening of the arteries;
  • tiny smoke particles that lodge in the lungs causing structural damage. These tiny particles, or PM10, are less than 10 microns wide, or about 1/7 the diameter of a human hair.

What if my neighbor’s woodstove or fireplace is producing a strong, foul odor?

The primary cause of foul odors from woodstoves and fireplaces is the burning of green wood. Because green wood contains so much water, it does not burn efficiently and essentially just smolders. Smoldering fires are not hot enough to destroy the bulk of the odors. The solution to such a problem is to burn well-seasoned, dry wood in a hot fire, with lots of air. If you are bothered by a neighbor’s smoke, you should contact the BCAA office or file a complaint

What are the restrictions on buying or selling a used woodstove or fireplace in Benton County?

Since July 1, 1992, only EPA certified wood stoves and fireplace inserts may be legally sold or installed in Washington. There should be a metal tag permanently affixed to the device that will indicate EPA certification. According to Washington State law and BCAA Regulation 1, it is illegal to advertise to sell, offer to sell, sell, bargain, exchange, or give away an uninstalled used uncertified fireplace or woodstove. If you have any questions, please contact the BCAA.

A list of EPA certified woodstoves can be found at the Washington State Department of Ecology Air Program website

Alternatives to Outdoor Burning

Non-Burning Alternatives are available and many residents choose to chip or compost this material to use in their yard and garden. Others may haul their “clean green” to a local recycling transfer station or to a private collection company.

Instead of burning your yard debris, why not try an alternative. The following is a list of several that are available.

Composting

Want bigger, brighter, fuller flowers and county-fair-sized vegetables? Try composting your garden and yard debris. Nothing beats adding compost for soil enrichment. And if you think composting is just a fad of the ’90s, here’s and interesting fact: a Roman statesman named Marcus Cato introduced composting as a way to build up the soil of ancient Rome more that 2,000 years ago. In-the-know gardeners will tell you that nothing makes their gardens grow like a great homemade compost. Creating a balance of wet, “green” materials (such as grass clippings, certain food scraps, and various kinds of manure and dry, “brown” materials (the dry leaves and woody materials that you might previously burned!) creates the perfect compost. The “browns” are really carbon-rich materials and the “greens” are nitrogen-rich products that work together with microbes to build a soil-enriching compost for your garden. Need some more convincing reasons to compost?

Here’s a list of some of the great benefits of composting:

  • Composting is a perfect alternative to open (backyard) burning
  • Composting saves space in the landfill
  • Composing enriches the soil and turns out better plants and vegetables
  • Composting is convenient. Just think, the time and energy you now expend to bag and haul all your garden debris to the trash can, landfill, or transfer station can be turned into a useful product.
  • Composting saves money (less money spent on leaf bags, fertilizers, mulch, bagged compost, peat moss, or other soil enhancements).

For more information on backyard composting, call the Washington State University Cooperative Extension or the Benton County Solid Waste Department (see Resources below) or check out the BCAA Composting flier by clicking the burning tab at the top of the page and then scrolling to the bottom.

Make Your Own Mulch

Mulch is a protective covering for your plants, shrubs, and trees that truly benefits your garden. When it’s spread in garden beds or under shrubs and trees, mulch reduces evaporation, maintains even soil temperature, prevent erosion, controls weeds, and enriches the soil. You can make your own mulch by chipping “brown: or carbon-rich yard debris. Call the Washington State Cooperative Extension or the Benton County Solid Waste Department (see Resources below).

You can find out more information by viewing the BCAA Mulching flier by clicking the burning tab at the top of the page and then scrolling to the bottom.

Use a Mulching Mover for a Healthy Lawn

If you leave “mulched” grass on your lawn instead of burning the clippings, you’re doing your grass, yourself, and the environment a favor. Don’t worry, because this finely chopped grass has a temporary mulching effect but rapidly decomposes to return valuable nutrients to the soil. Together these benefits of a mulching mower help your lawn hold water and reduce fertilizer costs. Over time, the soils in our hot, dry climate become healthier simply from the added organic matter. Perhaps the best benefit is that you spend less time handling grass clippings. You can buy a mulching mower for the same cost as comparable non-mulching mowers and some models even have a mulch/no mulch/bagging option.

Chipping

Large quantities of woody vegetative material from yards, gardens, other landscaping features, or land- clearing can be turned into a useful product. The resulting wood chips can be used for a number of purposes. For more information, check out the BCAA Chipping flier by clicking the burning tab at the top of the page and then scrolling to the bottom.

Landscape Management

In our region, most people prefer irrigated lawns with trees, shrubs and grass for the benefits they provide: cooling, fire protection, and aesthetic environment. If you can incorporate some of the following ideas into your landscaping, you may lessen your yard debris:

Reduce or limit the number of trees and shrubs you plant

  • Plant varieties that minimize debris
  • Plant low-residue plant and native varieties that thrive in our grow zone
  • Consider planting a xeriscape – an urban landscape that decreases yard waste and conserves water as well. In xeriscapes, native or arid-zone adapted plants produce minimum residue and rely on natural rainfall only.

Use the Landfill

Disposing of your yard debris in a landfill is also an alternative to burning. This is especially true for people who can’t take advantage of composting, making mulch, mulching mowers, or installing low-residue landscaping. In other parts of the state, landfill space is at a premium, but in our region, landfill space is not currently a concern. However, disposing as recyclable yard debris in the landfill is an option that should be used only as necessary as a substitute for open burning.

Resources

Washington State University Cooperative Extension
Master Gardener Program
Tri-Cities (509) 735-3551
Prosser (509) 786-2226

Benton County Solid Waste Department
Tri-Cities (509)783-1310 ext 5682
Prosser (509)786-5611

City of Richland
Environmental Education Coordinator
505 Swift Blvd, Richland, WA 99352
(509) 942-7730

City of Kennewick
Solid Waste Environmental Division
210 W 6th Ave, Kennewick, WA 99336
(509) 585-4317

Burning Detail Questions

... tumbleweeds blown on to my property?

Tumbleweeds that have been blown on to your property can be burned at any time, regardless of the burn day and regardless of whether you are inside or outside the Urban Growth Area (UGA). However, only the tumbleweeds can be burned, any other vegetative material to be burned is subject to the rules specific to your location.

... tumbleweeds that are growing on my property?

If the tumbleweeds are growing on your property, you cannot burn them in place.

If tumbleweeds are actually growing on your property, you must obtain a special burn permit in order to burn the tumblewweds in-place. Be aware that therer is a fee charged for a special burn permit. You may want to consider an alternative to burning such as mulching, mowing, or composting. However, you may also want to try to control the weeds before they become a problem by mowing or using a commercial herbicide. For more information you can download a flyer on tumbleweed burning here (PDF).

... in a woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue?

At the present time, in Benton County, there are no restrictions on when you can use your woodstove, barbecue, or fireplace. However, you must burn properly to minimize the impact of smoke on your neighbors.

... for recreation (campfire or bonfire)?

As of April 13, 2000, the definition and rules about recreational fires have changed. Recreational fire means [by definition] cooking fires, campfires, and bonfires using charcoal or firewood that occur in designated areas or on private property for cooking or pleasure purposes (WAC 173-425-030). Fires used for debris disposal are not considered recreational fires. For more information you can download a flyer on recreational fires here (PDF).

Inside the UGA: Recreational fires that are larger than three feet in diameter and two feet high require a permit. Permit conditions may limit the date and time burning is allowed. Recreational fires smaller than 3’x2’ are allowed at any time, regardless of the “burn day”, and do not require a permit.

Outside the UGA: Recreational fires are allowed at any time and do not require a permit.

... in a burn barrel?

As of April 13, 2000, the use of the traditional metal burn barrel is illegal throughout the State. This was done primarily to make the state rule consistent with the Uniform Fire Code.

If you feel that you must use a system similar to the burn barrel, waste disposal is still allowed in an outdoor burning device. This device must be constructed of concrete or masonry with a completely enclosed combustion chamber and a permanently attached iron spark arrester (max 1/2 inch holes). The device can only be used to dispose of natural vegetative debris. Paper, garbage, wood products, and other prohibited materials are illegal to burn.

... construction debris on my property?

The burning of construction debris is prohibited by state law, WAC 173-425-050(2), and by BCAA Regulation 1 Article 5 Section 5.02E. Because of the significant amount of prohibited materials found in construction fires of the past, BCAA Regulation 1 strictly prohibits any fire from occurring on a construction site. This includes the burning of vegetative debris and the burning of tumbleweeds. Burning illegally on a construction site will likely result in a violation and fine.

... on my small/hobby orchard?

Small hobby farms and small orchards are also subject to burning rules and regulations. If the farm or orchard sells what it produces and files a Schedule F with its income taxes, the farm is considered to be a commercial operation and is subject to the agricultural burning rules. All other farms and orchards are considered to be non-commercial. As with residential burning of yard waste, the location of the property is important.

Because outdoor burning have been substantially banned within the UGA, there are no “burn days” per se that farms and orchards may use for waste disposal. The only option available for farms and orchards within the UGA is to apply for a Special Burning Permit. Please contact us for information and details.

Outside the UGA, a farm or orchard can burn its dry, natural vegetation as long as there is a burn day. Burn day status is available by calling 946-4489. However, the farm cannot clear fields and steps must be taken to minimize the impact of the smoke on neighbors. Failure to comply with these additional restrictions could result in enforcement action.

If there are any questions concerning burning on hobby farms and orchards, please contact us.

... on a lot or area that is a fire hazard?

Brush and weeds on a piece of property can be considered a fire hazard. However, you will need to have your local fire department come to your property and declare it a fire hazard. In addition, the fire department must agree that burning the material would be the safest way to eliminate the hazard; in most cases alternatives, such as mowing, are equally effective. If the fire department determines that the fire hazard would be reduced by burning, then the BCAA will issue a permit to burn the material.

Frequently Asked Questions about Outdoor Burning

What are some alternatives to burning?

Information on Alternatives to Burning is here.

My residence is inside the Urban Growth Area (UGA) of Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Prosser, or Benton City, can I burn?

The Washington Administrative Code (WAC) required that residential and land clearing burning in urban growth areas of cities larger than 5,000 be banned as of January 1, 2001. For cities smaller than 5,000, such as Benton City, outdoor burning was allowed until January 1, 2004. However, as of January 1, burning is now banned in the UGA of Benton City as well. Recent changes in the State law have further defined what types of burning can or cannot take place within the urban growth areas. Based on these changes, the following is a summary list of the applicable rules for burning in the urban growth areas of Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Prosser, and Benton City.

If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the Urban Growth Area (UGA), you may search your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304 .

PROHIBITED

  • burning yard debris (leaves, branches, etc.) at your property
  • transferring material from Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Prosser, or Benton City to outside the UGA for the purpose of burning the material
  • the use of burn barrels
  • burning for land-clearing purposes
  • burning tumbleweeds that are growing on your property
  • burning garbage, dead animals, asphalt, petroleum products, paints, rubber products, plastics, paper (other than what is necessary to start the fire), cardboard, treated wood, construction debris, metal, or any substance (other than natural vegetation) which when burned releases toxic emissions, dense smoke, or odors.” (WAC 173-425-050(2))

ALLOWED WITH A PERMIT

  • burning a recreational fire greater than 3 feet in diameter.

ALLOWED WITHOUT A PERMIT

  • burning a recreational fire that is less than 3 feet in diameter
  • burning tumbleweeds that blew on to your property

Can I burn? My residence is outside the Urban Growth Area.

If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the UGA, you may search your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304.

If you have confirmed that your residence is outside of the urban growth area, you may burn under the residential burning rules.

In 1995, the Washington State legislature changed some of the burning rules and how they were applied in different parts of the State. For those residents outside of the UGA, the following rules apply:

PROHIBITED

  • burning garbage, dead animals, asphalt, petroleum products, paints, rubber products, plastics, paper (other than what is necessary to start the fire), cardboard, treated wood, construction debris, metal, or any substance (other than natural vegetation) which when burned releases toxic emissions, dense smoke, or odors.” (WAC 173-425-050(2))

PROHIBITED AS OF JAN 1, 2001

  • the use of burn barrels

ALLOWED ON A BURN DAY You must have a burn day before you may burn. The burn message, updated by 9 AM, is 509-783-6198.

  • Only material generated at your residence can be burned.
  • Only dry, natural vegetation can be burned. Burning paper (other than enough to start fire), plastic, lumber, building debris, and garbage is strictly prohibited.
  • Someone must be in attendance of the fire at all times and be able to put out the fire if necessary.
  • No fires are allowed within 50 feet of any flammable structure.
  • The pile size is limited to 4 ft by 4 ft by 3 ft high.
  • Only one pile can be burned at a time. Continually feeding material into one fire is OK.
  • The fire must be extinguished if it creates a nuisance.
  • You can only burn at your residential property or the property owner’s permission must be obtained prior to burning.
  • Your fire must be completely extinguished by the end of the burn day.

ALLOWED WITH A PERMIT

  • burning for weed abatement (including tumbleweeds growing on your property)
  • burning a recreational fire greater than 3 feet in diameter.

What is an “Urban Growth Area” and how do I know if my residence is inside or outside?

The applicable open burning regulations depend upon where the property is located with respect to the “Urban Growth Area”, or UGA. The urban growth area (UGA) is defined by a line that the incorporated cities (Richland, Kennewick, West Richland, Benton City, and Prosser) expect to grow into during the next 20 years. The UGA includes all the city limits, the “islands” of County within the cities, and some parts of County land immediately adjacent to the city limits. Those properties that lie inside of this boundary have different burning rules than those properties lying outside the boundary. If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the UGA, you may search for your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304.

Urban Growth Area Maps are here.

I can’t meet some or all of the burn rules, is there another way I can burn legally?

Many of the burn rules are, in many cases, restrictive by design. By creating these rules, the State can reduce the amount of burning taking place in the urban areas, reducing both air pollution and fire risk. However, there are circumstances where the BCAA can allow an individual or company to burn outside of these rules.

A Special Burn Permit may be issued under specific circumstances. The permit has an associated fee that is assessed in two parts. First, there is a $75 non-refundable application fee that must accompany the written application. This allows the BCAA Inspector to process the application and if necessary, inspect the materials to be burned prior to burning. The application can either be accepted or rejected at this point. If accepted, there is an additional charge of no more than $8.50 per cubic yard of material to be burned. The fees must be paid within 30 days of the permit being issued. A permit is issued that is specific to the applicant’s type of burning. The permit conditions often will allow more “burn days” than would be available under the urban are spring and fall burn windows.

If you would like to apply for a Special Burn Permit, the application is Special Burn Permit Request along with the fee, to the BCAA. If you have any questions, please contact us.

How does the BCAA determine whether or not to allow a “burn day”?

Information on how the daily burn decision is made is here.

“What about burning” answers to these questions are found here:*

  • tumbleweeds blown on to my property?
  • tumbleweeds that are growing on my property?
  • in a woodstove, barbecue, or fireplace?
  • for recreation (campfire or bonfire)?
  • in a burn barrel?
  • construction debris on my property?
  • on my small/hobby orchard?
  • on a lot or area that is a fire hazard?

How do I build a good, hot fire, that does not produce a lot of smoke? The Boy Scouts of America recommend when burning a fire:

1. Use dry, seasoned wood. Do not burn material that has just been cut or has been soaked by moisture. 2. Use a mixture of material of different sizes and thickness. Start with small tinder: like dry moss or really dry pine needles. Next, put kindling into the fire. Kindling are small pieces of wood no larger than the width of one of your fingers. Arrange your third and last material, the “fuel” (larger material), in a teepee type style. Put a break in the pattern, like a door to the teepee, facing into the wind. This break allows the breeze to blow into the fire and creates a hotter, more efficient fire. 3. Light your fire with matches, no fuel (gasoline, lighter fluid, etc.) should be necessary, through the door of the teepee. Start by lighting the tinder, the tinder will then catch the remaining material on fire. Add material as the fire burns hot and quickly.

My property is zoned agriculture. Do I follow the open burning rules or the agricultural burning rules?

State law views residential burning and agricultural burning as two separate issues, both with associated laws. In order to qualify an agricultural burn permit you must show evidence of agricultural activity taking place, usually in the form of supplying a copy of the IRS form Schedule F: Profit and Loss from Farming. Only those operations with proof of an agricultural operation will be issued an agricultural burn permit. The zoning regulations are local regulations and do not apply to burning applications. Areas which are zoned agriculture, but do not supply this proof, must comply with the general rule burn rules and the “burn days”.

Urban Growth Area Information

The applicable open burning regulations depend upon where the property is located with respect to the “Urban Growth Area”, or UGA. The urban growth area (UGA) is defined by a line that the incorporated cities (Richland, Kennewick, West Richland, Benton City, and Prosser) expect to grow into during the next 20 years. The UGA includes all the city limits, the “islands” of County within the cities, and some parts of County land immediately adjacent to the city limits. Those properties that lie inside of this boundary have different burning rules than those properties lying outside the boundary. If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the UGA, you can search your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304.

Regulations

Ecology’s rule on Outdoor Burning is here.

Daily Burn Decision

This information applies only to residents that live outside of the urban growth area. If you are inside the city limits of Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Benton City, or Prosser you are never allowed to burn yard debris at your residence. Also please note, that just because your property is outside of city limits, does not mean that you are also outside the urban growth area. To search whether your address is within an urban growth area, click here. You may also call the Benton County Planning Dept. or Benton Clean Air Agency for help determining whether you are inside or outside the urban growth area.

The Residential and Agricultural burn line numbers can be found in the top left corner of the page. Please call to find out the current conditions and restrictions. The daily burn decision is also available here.

The burn decision is made every morning prior to 9:00 am and is based on that day’s forecasted meteorological conditions. If necessary, the burn lines are updated to reflect the status of the burn decision. Should conditions unexpectedly change, the burn line may be updated as needed.

When making the burn decision, the BCAA utilizes information from the National Weather Service and a modeling forecast produced by the University of WA, in cooperation with the Dept of Ecology. This modeling forecast is called the “MM5” and gives a projected forecast of the atmospheric dispersion conditions, throughout the state, at different times throughout the day.

These tools are used uniformly throughout most of the state in making the daily agricultural burn decision. Forecasted wind speeds are not a primary factor in determining agricultural burn days in Benton County. Fire safety is the responsibility of the farmers. Wind warnings are given on the burn day message for surface wind speeds forecasted above 15 mph.

The residential burn decision is based on the same information used to make the agricultural burn decision. However, in consideration for fire safety and at the request of our local fire departments, wind speed is taken into consideration. When the surface wind speeds from the National Weather Service office in Pendleton, OR for the Columbia Basin are forecast to exceed 20 mph, residential burning will not be allowed. For forecasted surface wind speeds between 15 and 20 mph, a wind warning is issued.

For outdoor burning, the Benton Clean Air Agency allows burning generally only when dispersion conditions are forecasted to be good.

Bright sunny days are frequently not good smoke dispersion days and are characterized by high pressure systems. The latter characteristically has descending air masses, low mixing level ceilings, and little horizontal air movement. Known in meteorology as stable air masses, all the factors associated with these air masses combine to limit the both the volume and vertical mixing of near-surface air. Air pollutants emitted into the air under these conditions from any source, one of which may be outdoor burning, are effectively trapped and do not disperse by vertical mixing and horizontal transport at higher altitudes.

In contrast, low pressure weather systems are characterized by unstable air that is rising and frequently turbulent. Both vertical mixing with high elevation mixing levels and horizontal air movement very effectively dilute and disperse air pollutants emitted into the air.

Unfortunately, these meteorologically unstable air masses frequently have high wind speeds and gusty wind plus precipitation. High gusty wind conditions pose a fire safety hazard.

Outdoor Burning

Residential Burning Program

Under the residential burning program, only residents located outside of the Urban Growth Area are allowed to burn. Residents outside the UGA must still call the residential burn line to find out whether or not it is a burn day. The phone number is located at the top of the page, and is updated on a daily basis. You may also find the burn decision, here.

To search whether your address is within an Urban Growth Area of Benton County, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page.

If it is a burn day, and you are located outside of the UGA, the following burning rules apply:

  • Only dry natural vegetation may be burned
  • Only one pile at a time may be burned, and the pile must be extinguished before ingniting another
  • The pile must be no larger than 4 feet by 4 feet by 3 feet tall
  • The fire must be located 50 feet from all flamable structures
  • You must be in attendance of the fire at all times
  • You must not create a nuisance with the smoke from your fire
  • The use of burn barrels is prohibited

Failure to adhere to these rules may result in the issuance of a violation and/or fine.

Residents Inside The Urban Growth Area

Residents located inside the Urban Growth Area are not allowed to burn for disposal purposes.

The following types of burning are allowed inside the Urban Growth Area:

1. Burning of tumbleweeds that have blown on to your property using the following guidelines:
- You must call the burn line to see if tumbleweed burning has been banned due to high winds or fire safety
- You must not create a nuisance with the smoke
- You must be in attendance of the fire at all times
- The use of burn barrels is prohibited

2. Recreational Fires using the following guidelines:
- The fire must not be larger than 3 feet by 3 feet by 2 feet tall
- You must be in attendance at all times
- Only dry, seasoned firewood may be used; The fire cannot be used for disposal purposes
- The fire must be 50 feet from all flammable structures
- You must not create a nuisnace with the smoke
- The use of burn barrels is prohibited

3. Barbeques

4. Woodstoves

Failure to adhere to the guidelines listed above may result in a violation and/or fine.

Fees

A. An application fee for an agricultural burning permit shall be due and payable at the time of submittal of the application.

B. Upon approval of any agricultural burning permit application, the BCAA shall charge a fee at a maximum fee level as set by statute.

C. Minimum and variable fee levels are as follows:

  • Thirty seven dollars and fifty cents ($37.50) per calendar year per field burn based on burning up to ten acres or equivalent; Each additional acre is $3.75 per acre.
  • Eighty dollars ($80.00) for pile burning per calendar year per agricultural operation based on burning debris from up to 80 tons or equivalent; Each additional ton is $1.00 per ton.

The agricultural burning practices and research task force may set acreage equivalents, for non-field style agricultural burning practices, based on the amount of emissions relative to typical field burning emissions. Any acreage equivalents, established by rule, shall be used in determining fees. For agricultural burning conducted by irrigation or drainage districts, each mile of ditch (including banks) burned is calculated on an equivalent acreage basis.

For a complete breakdown of the fee schedule, click here.

Agricultural Burning Permits and Forms

Most commercial burning of agricultural fields or for agricultural purposes requires a permit from the BCAA.

Agricultural Permit is required for ..

  • Orchard or vineyard takeout
  • Vineyard prunings
  • Disease or weed control
  • Residue removal
  • Research/demonstration project
  • Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) or renovation purposes
  • “Flaming” of hop roots

Agricultural Permit is not required* for ..

  • Orchard prunings
  • Natural vegetation along fencelines, irrigation canals, or drainage ditches.
  • Tumbleweeds

*NOTE: Conversion of agricultural property to commercial or residential use, such as removal of an orchard to put in a housing development is not considered agricultural burning and is not allowed with an agricultural burn permit.

Regardless of whether the agricultural burn requires a permit, you must contact your local fire department and inform them prior to burning.

Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs)

Agricultural burning is allowed when it is reasonably necessary to carry out the enterprise. A farmer can show burning is reasonably necessary when it meets the criteria of the BMPs and no practical alternative exists. BMPs are one of the ways to demonstrate the need to burn. Growers not using BMPs must establish that their proposed burn is reasonably necessary and that no practical alternative is available. The burden of proof is on the grower, and the demonstration must satisfy the Department of Ecology and the local delegated permitting authority, if there is a local permitting authority.

Current BMP Information:

  • Agricultural Burning Best Management Practices – click here

Permit Applications

Before an agricultural burn permit is issued, an application must be submitted and processed. You will need both the permit application and a copy of one of the Best Management Guidelines documents:

The following steps describe the application procedure:

  • Fill out the application. Be specific and COMPLETE. Refer to the Best Management Practices Guidance document as necessary. Incomplete applications will not be processed.
  • Calculate the total acres/tons and fee In the space provided, write the number of acres/tons from each of the proposed burns. Add together the acres/tons of each proposed burn, this is the number of acres/tons proposed.
  • Make checks payable to BCAA. Please do not send cash.
  • Sign and date the applicant statement portion.
  • Send the application and check for the permit fee to:

Benton Clean Air Agency
526 S. Steptoe St.
Kennewick, WA 99336

Receiving Your Permit

The BCAA will act on a complete application within seven (7) days and either send to you a permit or written reason why the application has been denied. If an incomplete application is submitted, it will be returned along with the fee.

Agricultural Burning Regulations

There are three sources of agricultural burning regulations which pertain to the residents of Benton County:

What About Burning ...

… on an orchard?

Burning on an orchard is considered agricultural burning and is subject to WAC 173-430. In order to burn you must have filed a Schedule F (Profit and Loss from Farming) form with the IRS. If you have not, you may not burn for agricultural purposes and may be cited for burning in your orchard.

The same laws that govern other types of agricultural burning also regulate burning on an orchard. There are, however, some differences relating to the reasons why a particular burn is being conducted. It is important that the orchardist is well informed prior to burning on orchard lands in order to lessen the chances for enforcement action.

There are three types of burning that can take place on an orchard, each with differing requirements.

  • Crop Rotation: Tree removal with intent to replace with different tree “crop”

Orchardists who plan to change crops by removing existing trees and replacing with another tree type or a different agricultural product, will need to apply for an Agricultural Burn Permit. Burning the “old” trees are subject to the conditions on the permit and burning is limited to agricultural “burn days”.

  • Crop Removal: Tree removal with intent to change land use, for example using the land for a housing development

In many cases, orchards are converted to some other land use, such as a housing development. Since the land will no longer be used for agricultural purposes the trees that are removed cannot be burned under an Agricultural Burning Permit. However, a Special Burn Permit can be used for this purpose. The Special Burn Permit carries a non-refundable $50 application fee plus an additional fee based upon the total volume of material to be burned (maximum $8.50 per cubic yard). A Special Burn Permit application can be downloaded (PDF).

  • Orchard prunings

A permit is not needed to burn tree prunings. Prunings can be burned at any time regardless of the agricultural “burn day”. However, care must be taken so that the smoke does not impact neighboring residents. By causing impact on residents, the fire may need to be extinguished and depending upon circumstances, possible BCAA enforcement action may apply.

... on a vineyard?

After much deliberation with the WSU Cooperative Extension and with several vinyardists, it was established that vineyard prunings do not fall into the same category as orchard prunings. As such, any burning on a vineyard requires an Agricultural Burning Permit and needs to follow the general agricultural burn rules.

... on a grass seed farm?

Most grass-seed field burning in Washington State has been ended by the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology). Ecology has officially certified alternatives to grass seed field burning that are practical and reasonably available. Ecology has also determined that mechanical residue management is a viable and reasonable available alternative in most cases. Only under limited specific situations may some burning of grass-seed fields take place. For more information contact the BCAA Inspector Rob Rodger , or go to the Department of Ecology Air Program.

... “flaming” or burning hop roots?

The BCAA and the Department of Ecology considers “flaming” and the burning of hop roots to be agricultural burning. As such, this type of burning requires an Agricultural Burning permit and need to follow the general agricultural burn rules.

... for non-agricultural purposes (land-clearing)?

An agricultural burn permit can only be used in circumstances that directly affect the propagation of field crops. An example would be the burning or wheat stubble, or the removal of an orchard to plant new fruit trees. However, if agricultural purposes will be ceased on a property and the land is to be cleared for another purpose, such as a housing development, an agricultural burning permit cannot be used for this purpose and a special burn permit is required. A Special Burn permit carries a non-refundable $50 application fee plus a negotiable $8.50 per cubic yard of to-be-burned material fee. An application for a Special Burn Permit can be downloaded (PDF).

Special Burn Permit Request

Agricultural Burning Regulations

  • Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 173-430 click here

Agricultural Daily Burn Decision

When is the next burn day?

Agricultural Burn Day

Burn days are not called in advance. BCAA staff checks for forecasted air dispersion conditions, which if they meet the critieria, mean that any smoke generated from burning should be diluted enough not to impact the general population. Wind speeds are also taken into consideration when making the daily decision. If strong winds are forcasted, incidental burning may also not be allowed in addition to permitted burning.

Also, most types of agricultural burns require a permit, others do not. Be sure that you understand whether or not you need a permit. Burning without a permit may lead to enforcement actions. Please do not hesitate to contact the BCAA office for clarification and assistance.

The burn day message is updated at 9 a.m. daily; no burn day will ever start prior to 9 a.m.

BCAA Office Agricultural Burn Line: 509-783-6570 or CLICK HERE

Burning

Burning, whether done indoors for heat or outdoors for recreation, creates unhealthful air pollution. Before burning, you need to know if burning is allowed and under what circumstances. By following the rules, you will keep smoke emissions to a minimum and avoid a potentially costly fine.

Agricultural Burning
In this section learn more about:

  • Agricultural Burning Best Manage Practices
  • Agricultural Burning Rules and permits

Outdoor Burning
In this section, learn more about:

  • Outdoor burning in Benton County – what’s allowed, what’s not
  • Residential, Land Clearing
  • Alternatives to burning
  • Health effects of burning – what you should know

Woodstoves and Fireplaces
In this section learn more about:

  • Key facts about wood heating
  • Air quality requirements related to wood burning
  • Limits on visible chimney smoke (opacity limits)

Outdoor Burning Fact Sheets

Agricultural Burning

The way agricultural burning is being managed is changing in the Northwest, with Washington State leading the way. This change is part of a comprehensive revision of the state’s air pollution laws that affects not just agriculture, but many other commercial, individual and governmental activities. The Clean Air Washington Act of 1991 (Chapter 70.94 RCW) states that those who contribute to air pollution will share the job of protecting air quality.

Agricultural burning is setting fire to:

  • Crop residue after harvest in order to reduce excess plant material and hinder pest infestations
  • Fruit tree debris from orchards after pruning or tree removal
  • Cereal grain (wheat, barley, corn and oats) stubble after harvest

All agricultural burning must follow Best Management Practices. Information on these BMP’s is found here.

Questions about burning

What is “agricultural burning” and how is it different from other forms of burning?

Agricultural burning is one of three kinds of outdoor burning. Outdoor burning also includes silvicultural (forest land) burning, and “open burning” — any other kind of burning outdoors in the open or in containers. As a farm management tool, an estimated 3, 000 to 5,000 agricultural fires are set each year in Washington, with up to 600,000 acres thought to be burned. Studies show that air quality levels can exceed federal health standards in areas affected by outdoor burning, especially from larger fires, or when dispersion of smoke by the wind is poor.

The Washington Clean Air Act (RCW 70.94) protects air quality in the state. Specifically, the RCW requires agricultural permits for commercial agricultural operations that burn natural vegetation as a farm management tool. The law also requires that the grower show the burning is reasonably necessary to carry out the enterprise. Agricultural burning meeting the criteria of the best management practices (identified by the agricultural burning practices and research task force) and where no practical alternative exists automatically satisfies this requirement. For further information, also see WAC 173-430.

Other forms of outdoor burning, such as that which is done at residences within the urban areas are considered to be waste-disposal, not as a management tool. This is primarily why many forms of outdoor burning are being phased out over time.

When is the next agricultural burn day?

Agricultural burn days are not called in advance. The BCAA staff checks for forecast air circulation conditions, which if good, mean that any smoke generated from burning should be diluted enough not to impact the general population. Because wind speed considerations are not taken into account when determining an agricultural burn day, it is the responsibility of the agricultural operation to determine if it is safe to burn or not.

Also, certain types of agricultural burns require a permit while others do not. Be sure that you understand whether or not you need a permit. Burning without a permit may lead to enforcement actions. Please do not hesitate to contact the BCAA office for clarification and assistance.

The burn day message is updated at 9 a.m. daily; no burn day will ever start prior to 9 a.m.

BCAA Office Agricultural Burn Line: 783-6570 or CLICK HERE

Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs)

Agricultural burning is allowed when it is reasonably necessary to carry out the enterprise. A farmer can show burning is reasonably necessary when it meets the criteria of the BMPs and no practical alternative exists. BMPs are one of the ways to demonstrate the need to burn. Growers not using BMPs must establish that their proposed burn is reasonably necessary and that no practical alternative is available. The burden of proof is on the grower, and the demonstration must satisfy the Department of Ecology and the local delegated permitting authority, if there is a local permitting authority.

Permits:

Many kinds of agricultural burning require permits. Information about permit applications, and the regulations upon which these programs are based is found here:

Do I need a permit to burn and how do I get one?

Agricultural Burning Permits and Forms

When is an agricultural burn permit not necessary?

Agricultural Burning Permits and Forms

What about burning?:

Other Agricultural Burning

  • on an commercial orchard
  • on a vineyard
  • on a grass seed farm
  • “flaming” or burning hop roots
  • for non-agricultural purposes (land-clearing)

The Department of Ecology’s page on Agricultural Burning is here.

Benton Clean Air Agency

Benton Clean Air Agency

Burn Decision & UGA Map



Determine whether or not you may burn at your location on residential burn days

Please enter your address to determine whether you are in an urban growth area of Benton County

Notices of Violation

If I am caught burning illegally, what will happen?

Enforcement actions usually begin once the BCAA receives complaints about illegal burning taking place. One of our inspectors is sent to the site to judge the severity of the violation and to document what is going on. The Inspector will try to locate the responsible individual or company and make them aware of the violations. At this point, the fire is required to be extinguished. After the Inspector finishes at the site, one of two things happens, either a warning letter or a Notice of Violation (NOV) is issued.

Warning letters are sent out if the violation was relatively minor or if the burner was uninformed. Once a warning letter is sent, the BCAA generally considers the case closed. If there are further violations after an individual or company has received a warning letter, the enforcement action may increase to an NOV, which is a much firmer form of enforcement.

The NOV is an official enforcement action and should be taken very seriously. Essentially the NOV is a ticket that informs the burner of the laws that were violated and of the Inspector’s findings at the site. The NOV starts the process of a formal case against the burner and cannot be appealed.Thirty days after the burner receives the NOV, the BCAA may assess a penalty in another formal document called a Notice of Penalty (NOP). According to Washington State law, penalties of up to $10,000 per violation per day may be assessed. For example, burning garbage in the city limits one a no-burn day with no mean to put the fire out equates to three violations or a maximum of $30,000 fine. Generally, though the BCAA does not fine to the greatest extent of the law and actual fines can be much lower.

I have received a “Notice of Violation”. What does it mean and what do I do now?

If you have received a Notice of Violation (NOV), it means that you have violated one or more air quality regulations. The NOV serves as official notice of the laws that were violated and of the Inspector’s report on the situation. It is important that you read the NOV very carefully. The NOV cannot be appealed. However, you may send written documentation to the BCAA indicating your understanding of the situation.

Thirty days after you receive your NOV, you may receive a Notice of Penalty (NOP). The NOP is the official notice of a fine being levied against you. You may or may not receive an NOP, as one is assigned on a case-by-case basis. The NOP is appealable and several options are presented in the NOP documentation. Again, you should read the documentation very carefully.

If you have any questions, please contact BCAA.

I have received a “Notice of Penalty”. What does it mean and what do I do now?

if you have received a Notice of Penalty (NOP), it means that thirty days have passed since you received the Notice of Violation (NOV). The NOP is the official notice of a fine being levied against you. The NOP is appealable and several options are presented in the NOP documentation. Again, you should read the documentation very carefully.

Option 1: Pay the fine in full. If you take option 1, your full payment is due within 30 days.

Option 2: Consent Order (CO). (Note: A consent order may or may not be available.) The CO represents a reduced penalty that may be paid in lieu of full payment if you do not commit a similar violation within the next year. By taking the CO, you forfeit the other avenues of mitigation and appeal. Once the paperwork has been filed and signed and the reduced penalty paid (within 30 days), the BCAA considered the case closed. However, if the conditions of the CO are not adhered to, for example a similar future violation within a year, the original penalty is reinstated and an additional NOV and NOP may be issued.

Option 3: Application for Relief of Penalty (ARP). If you feel that the penalty is unjustified and wish to contest the penalty this is the option to take. It is an opportunity to tell your recollection of the events that lead to the NOV. Note, however, that if a reduction of penalty is granted, it will not be less than that offered on the CO. The ARP must be filed within 15 days.

Option 4: Appeal to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board (PCHB).
This is your opportunity to have a day in court. The PCHB is a state level hearing board that will hear the your case. The PCHB has the power to overturn the penalty issued by the BCAA. However, if you choose this option, the PCHB will be considering the full amount of the penalty, not the amount listed in the CO. In most cases, the PCHB does not lower the penalty below that offered on the CO.

If you have any questions about your NOP or your legal options, please contact BCAA.

Also note that there are several timed deadlines that you should follow. Failure to meet specific deadlines nullifies certain avenues of appeal.

Fire Protection Districts

A link to the Fire Protection District Map is here.

City/Region Fire District Phone #
Benton City BCFPD #2 509-588-3212
Benton County (East) BCFPD #1 509-734-9100
Benton County (West) BCFPD #5 509-786-1723
Finley BCFPD #1 509-734-9100
Kennewick Fire Department 509-585-4230
Patterson BCFPD #6 509-875-2029
Plymouth BCFPD #6 509-875-2029
Prosser BCFPD #3 509-786-3873
Prosser (South) BCFPD #5 509-786-1723
Richland Fire Department 509-942-7550
West Richland BCFPD #4 509-967-2945


Smoke Opacity

Smoke Opacity

State law prohibits the generation of excessive chimney smoke. Except for brief periods during start-up and refueling, smoke is in violation when it obscures objects viewed through it by more than 20%.

Generation of smoke densities greater than 20% could result in fines from air pollution control officials. Stoves operated with dry wood and a generous air supply produce less smoke and more heat.

Woodstoves and Fireplaces

Clean Home Heating

Many people don’t think of the smoke from their wood stove or fireplace as air pollution. Some people even like the smell of wood smoke. But wood smoke is one of the main sources of air pollution in Washington.

Wood smoke contains fine particles, PM 2.5, which are associated with serious health effects, as the tiny size of these pollutants allows them to be easily inhaled, bypassing the immune system and proceeding deep into your lungs, where they can cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems, including premature death.

In winter, more than half of Washington’s fine particle air pollution comes from the homes being heated using wood. Wood stoves, fireplaces and other wood-burning devices put out hundreds of times more air pollution than other sources of heat such as natural gas, propane, oil or electricity.

Video on How to Select a New Stove for Home Heat

Video on How to Operate Your Wood Stove More Efficiently

The fire: Give it air!

The right amount of air gives you a hotter fire and more complete combustion. That translates to more heat from your wood and less smoke and pollution. Here are some cleaner burning tips:

  • Build small, hot fires. Don’t add too much fuel at one time.
  • Step outside and check the chimney or flue. If you can see smoke, your fire may need more air.
  • Read and follow the stove manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Don’t “bank” the stove full of wood and damper down the air supply. This wastes wood, produces much air pollution, promotes accumulation of creosote (which requires more frequent cleaning and can lead to chimney fires) and yields very little heat. Half-full is adequate; it provides enough air space for efficient combustion.
  • Don’t damper down too far. Allow enough air to reach the wood. This varies among models and kinds of stoves.
  • Make sure your stove is the right size for your home. Too large a stove will overheat your living space. You’ll want to damper down. This causes added pollution and wastes wood.
  • Don’t burn in moderate temperatures. You’ll want to damper down, which causes more pollution and wastes wood.
  • Don’t burn when air currents carry your smoke to your neighbor’s yard or house.
  • Only burn dry, seasoned firewood, never garbage. Burning garbage is illegal in the state of Washington and creates a greater health hazard.

The fuel: keep it dry!

Wood can seem dry and still contain plenty of water, up to 50 percent. The moisture in wood makes the fire give off more smoke. On the other hand, dry wood can provide up to 44 percent more heat. It is against state law to burn wood with more than 20 percent moisture content in fireplaces or wood stoves.

Two things work very well at making sure your wood is dry enough: time and cover. Whether you buy wood or harvest your own, follow these tips to get it fire-ready:

  • Split it. The wood will dry best and burn most efficiently if the pieces are three and one-half to six inches in diameter.
  • Cover it. Protect the wood from rain and weather. Stack it loosely-in layers of alternating directions- to allow plenty of air circulation. Store it at least six inches off the ground.
  • Give it a year. Wood that has been split, dried and stored under cover for at least one year usually meets the 20 percent moisture content requirement.

State law does not regulate the dryness of any wood sold. If the seller states that the wood is dry or seasoned, consider it a claim; make sure for yourself. You—and not the seller—are responsible for the dryness of the wood you put on your fire.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I burn in my woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue on a “no burn day”?

Yes. Woodstove, fireplace, and barbecue use is unrestricted at all times. The burn day decision does not apply to these devices. The only time when use is restricted is during a statewide air pollution episode, which occurs rarely.

Can I burn paper or garbage in my woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue?

Washington State law prohibits the burning of paper, except that which is necessary to start the fire. Burning large amounts of paper is potentially very dangerous as often large burning embers exit the chimney and can cause fires outside the home. The burning of garbage is strictly prohibited by State law.

How do I know if I am burning correctly in my woodstove or fireplace?

Your woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue must be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Also, the amount of smoke produces by these devices must be minimized. The smoke coming out of your chimney should be almost colorless and thin. Thick, white or black smoke indicates that your fire is not receiving enough air. Woodstoves, fireplaces, and barbecues should be used in such a way as to minimize the impact on neighbors. Here are some additional tips:

  • Burn only dry fuel. Moist wood gives off more smoke and may produce up to 44% less heat.
  • Ideally, burn wood that has been split and dried for one year.
  • Never burn painted, stained or treated wood, colored newsprint, plastic, cardboard, garbage, diapers or magazines.
  • Twenty minutes after starting your fire, check your chimney for smoke. If you see any smoke, it probably exceeds the legal limit. Increase air to the fire for cleaner burning.
  • Burn small hot fires and allow plenty of air to reach the fire. Avoid excessive dampening to extend the duration of the burn, see The Myth of Air-Starved Burning below.
  • Never allow the fire to smolder. Smoldering fires pollute, are inefficient and are a fire hazard.

One myth, which is perhaps the most damaging to air quality and potentially damaging to health and safety, is that there are benefits to starving a wood stove for adequate combustion of air. A fire starved for air is excessively smoky because of incomplete combustion and therefore produces more unburned particulates and gaseous air pollutants than a hot fire with adequate air. Poor combustion also promotes the buildup of creosote in chimneys posing a fire hazard. Carbon monoxide from incomplete combustion can also buildup inside houses posing a direct threat of death by asphyxiation.

This myth had its origin in the 1970’s energy crisis when the popularity of wood stoves increased. Many poorly designed stoves have been marketed that are not air-tight and otherwise have poor combustion air controls. Manufacturers may have recommended, or owners may have discovered, the technique of severely restricting air flow to compensate for poor design. In addition, marginal economics and high labor requirements of wood burning have made conservation of wood a priority, which makes reducing wood consumption yet another excuse for starving wood stove fires for air.

Burning of uncured wood with moisture contents over 20% compounds the problems of poor combustion from air-starved fires by promoting even greater production of air pollutants and creosote. Burning high moisture wood decreases the usable energy from the wood because heat from burning is diverted into evaporating the water rather than heating the air as desired.

What are some of health effects from breathing smoke from woodstove, fireplaces or barbecues?*

Breathing air containing wood smoke can:

  • reduce lung function, especially in children;
  • increase severity of existing lung disease such as asthma, emphysema, pneumonia and bronchitis;
  • aggravate heart disease;
  • increase susceptibility to lower respiratory diseases;
  • irritate eyes, lungs, throat and sinuses;
  • trigger headaches and allergies.

Those at greatest health risk from wood smoke include:

  • fetuses, infants and children;
  • people with lung, heart, circulatory diseases or allergies;
  • the elderly;
  • cigarette smokers and ex-smokers.

Contents of wood smoke:

There are many components to wood smoke that can cause risk to your health. These compounds include:

  • carbon monoxide, fatal in high concentrations;
  • formaldehyde, a possible cause of human cancer;
  • organic gases which may interfere with lung function;
  • nitrogen oxides, linked to hardening of the arteries;
  • tiny smoke particles that lodge in the lungs causing structural damage. These tiny particles, or PM10, are less than 10 microns wide, or about 1/7 the diameter of a human hair.

What if my neighbor’s woodstove or fireplace is producing a strong, foul odor?

The primary cause of foul odors from woodstoves and fireplaces is the burning of green wood. Because green wood contains so much water, it does not burn efficiently and essentially just smolders. Smoldering fires are not hot enough to destroy the bulk of the odors. The solution to such a problem is to burn well-seasoned, dry wood in a hot fire, with lots of air. If you are bothered by a neighbor’s smoke, you should contact the BCAA office or file a complaint

What are the restrictions on buying or selling a used woodstove or fireplace in Benton County?

Since July 1, 1992, only EPA certified wood stoves and fireplace inserts may be legally sold or installed in Washington. There should be a metal tag permanently affixed to the device that will indicate EPA certification. According to Washington State law and BCAA Regulation 1, it is illegal to advertise to sell, offer to sell, sell, bargain, exchange, or give away an uninstalled used uncertified fireplace or woodstove. If you have any questions, please contact the BCAA.

A list of EPA certified woodstoves can be found at the Washington State Department of Ecology Air Program website

Alternatives to Outdoor Burning

Non-Burning Alternatives are available and many residents choose to chip or compost this material to use in their yard and garden. Others may haul their “clean green” to a local recycling transfer station or to a private collection company.

Instead of burning your yard debris, why not try an alternative. The following is a list of several that are available.

Composting

Want bigger, brighter, fuller flowers and county-fair-sized vegetables? Try composting your garden and yard debris. Nothing beats adding compost for soil enrichment. And if you think composting is just a fad of the ’90s, here’s and interesting fact: a Roman statesman named Marcus Cato introduced composting as a way to build up the soil of ancient Rome more that 2,000 years ago. In-the-know gardeners will tell you that nothing makes their gardens grow like a great homemade compost. Creating a balance of wet, “green” materials (such as grass clippings, certain food scraps, and various kinds of manure and dry, “brown” materials (the dry leaves and woody materials that you might previously burned!) creates the perfect compost. The “browns” are really carbon-rich materials and the “greens” are nitrogen-rich products that work together with microbes to build a soil-enriching compost for your garden. Need some more convincing reasons to compost?

Here’s a list of some of the great benefits of composting:

  • Composting is a perfect alternative to open (backyard) burning
  • Composting saves space in the landfill
  • Composing enriches the soil and turns out better plants and vegetables
  • Composting is convenient. Just think, the time and energy you now expend to bag and haul all your garden debris to the trash can, landfill, or transfer station can be turned into a useful product.
  • Composting saves money (less money spent on leaf bags, fertilizers, mulch, bagged compost, peat moss, or other soil enhancements).

For more information on backyard composting, call the Washington State University Cooperative Extension or the Benton County Solid Waste Department (see Resources below) or check out the BCAA Composting flier by clicking the burning tab at the top of the page and then scrolling to the bottom.

Make Your Own Mulch

Mulch is a protective covering for your plants, shrubs, and trees that truly benefits your garden. When it’s spread in garden beds or under shrubs and trees, mulch reduces evaporation, maintains even soil temperature, prevent erosion, controls weeds, and enriches the soil. You can make your own mulch by chipping “brown: or carbon-rich yard debris. Call the Washington State Cooperative Extension or the Benton County Solid Waste Department (see Resources below).

You can find out more information by viewing the BCAA Mulching flier by clicking the burning tab at the top of the page and then scrolling to the bottom.

Use a Mulching Mover for a Healthy Lawn

If you leave “mulched” grass on your lawn instead of burning the clippings, you’re doing your grass, yourself, and the environment a favor. Don’t worry, because this finely chopped grass has a temporary mulching effect but rapidly decomposes to return valuable nutrients to the soil. Together these benefits of a mulching mower help your lawn hold water and reduce fertilizer costs. Over time, the soils in our hot, dry climate become healthier simply from the added organic matter. Perhaps the best benefit is that you spend less time handling grass clippings. You can buy a mulching mower for the same cost as comparable non-mulching mowers and some models even have a mulch/no mulch/bagging option.

Chipping

Large quantities of woody vegetative material from yards, gardens, other landscaping features, or land- clearing can be turned into a useful product. The resulting wood chips can be used for a number of purposes. For more information, check out the BCAA Chipping flier by clicking the burning tab at the top of the page and then scrolling to the bottom.

Landscape Management

In our region, most people prefer irrigated lawns with trees, shrubs and grass for the benefits they provide: cooling, fire protection, and aesthetic environment. If you can incorporate some of the following ideas into your landscaping, you may lessen your yard debris:

Reduce or limit the number of trees and shrubs you plant

  • Plant varieties that minimize debris
  • Plant low-residue plant and native varieties that thrive in our grow zone
  • Consider planting a xeriscape – an urban landscape that decreases yard waste and conserves water as well. In xeriscapes, native or arid-zone adapted plants produce minimum residue and rely on natural rainfall only.

Use the Landfill

Disposing of your yard debris in a landfill is also an alternative to burning. This is especially true for people who can’t take advantage of composting, making mulch, mulching mowers, or installing low-residue landscaping. In other parts of the state, landfill space is at a premium, but in our region, landfill space is not currently a concern. However, disposing as recyclable yard debris in the landfill is an option that should be used only as necessary as a substitute for open burning.

Resources

Washington State University Cooperative Extension
Master Gardener Program
Tri-Cities (509) 735-3551
Prosser (509) 786-2226

Benton County Solid Waste Department
Tri-Cities (509)783-1310 ext 5682
Prosser (509)786-5611

City of Richland
Environmental Education Coordinator
505 Swift Blvd, Richland, WA 99352
(509) 942-7730

City of Kennewick
Solid Waste Environmental Division
210 W 6th Ave, Kennewick, WA 99336
(509) 585-4317

Burning Detail Questions

... tumbleweeds blown on to my property?

Tumbleweeds that have been blown on to your property can be burned at any time, regardless of the burn day and regardless of whether you are inside or outside the Urban Growth Area (UGA). However, only the tumbleweeds can be burned, any other vegetative material to be burned is subject to the rules specific to your location.

... tumbleweeds that are growing on my property?

If the tumbleweeds are growing on your property, you cannot burn them in place.

If tumbleweeds are actually growing on your property, you must obtain a special burn permit in order to burn the tumblewweds in-place. Be aware that therer is a fee charged for a special burn permit. You may want to consider an alternative to burning such as mulching, mowing, or composting. However, you may also want to try to control the weeds before they become a problem by mowing or using a commercial herbicide. For more information you can download a flyer on tumbleweed burning here (PDF).

... in a woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue?

At the present time, in Benton County, there are no restrictions on when you can use your woodstove, barbecue, or fireplace. However, you must burn properly to minimize the impact of smoke on your neighbors.

... for recreation (campfire or bonfire)?

As of April 13, 2000, the definition and rules about recreational fires have changed. Recreational fire means [by definition] cooking fires, campfires, and bonfires using charcoal or firewood that occur in designated areas or on private property for cooking or pleasure purposes (WAC 173-425-030). Fires used for debris disposal are not considered recreational fires. For more information you can download a flyer on recreational fires here (PDF).

Inside the UGA: Recreational fires that are larger than three feet in diameter and two feet high require a permit. Permit conditions may limit the date and time burning is allowed. Recreational fires smaller than 3’x2’ are allowed at any time, regardless of the “burn day”, and do not require a permit.

Outside the UGA: Recreational fires are allowed at any time and do not require a permit.

... in a burn barrel?

As of April 13, 2000, the use of the traditional metal burn barrel is illegal throughout the State. This was done primarily to make the state rule consistent with the Uniform Fire Code.

If you feel that you must use a system similar to the burn barrel, waste disposal is still allowed in an outdoor burning device. This device must be constructed of concrete or masonry with a completely enclosed combustion chamber and a permanently attached iron spark arrester (max 1/2 inch holes). The device can only be used to dispose of natural vegetative debris. Paper, garbage, wood products, and other prohibited materials are illegal to burn.

... construction debris on my property?

The burning of construction debris is prohibited by state law, WAC 173-425-050(2), and by BCAA Regulation 1 Article 5 Section 5.02E. Because of the significant amount of prohibited materials found in construction fires of the past, BCAA Regulation 1 strictly prohibits any fire from occurring on a construction site. This includes the burning of vegetative debris and the burning of tumbleweeds. Burning illegally on a construction site will likely result in a violation and fine.

... on my small/hobby orchard?

Small hobby farms and small orchards are also subject to burning rules and regulations. If the farm or orchard sells what it produces and files a Schedule F with its income taxes, the farm is considered to be a commercial operation and is subject to the agricultural burning rules. All other farms and orchards are considered to be non-commercial. As with residential burning of yard waste, the location of the property is important.

Because outdoor burning have been substantially banned within the UGA, there are no “burn days” per se that farms and orchards may use for waste disposal. The only option available for farms and orchards within the UGA is to apply for a Special Burning Permit. Please contact us for information and details.

Outside the UGA, a farm or orchard can burn its dry, natural vegetation as long as there is a burn day. Burn day status is available by calling 946-4489. However, the farm cannot clear fields and steps must be taken to minimize the impact of the smoke on neighbors. Failure to comply with these additional restrictions could result in enforcement action.

If there are any questions concerning burning on hobby farms and orchards, please contact us.

... on a lot or area that is a fire hazard?

Brush and weeds on a piece of property can be considered a fire hazard. However, you will need to have your local fire department come to your property and declare it a fire hazard. In addition, the fire department must agree that burning the material would be the safest way to eliminate the hazard; in most cases alternatives, such as mowing, are equally effective. If the fire department determines that the fire hazard would be reduced by burning, then the BCAA will issue a permit to burn the material.

Frequently Asked Questions about Outdoor Burning

What are some alternatives to burning?

Information on Alternatives to Burning is here.

My residence is inside the Urban Growth Area (UGA) of Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Prosser, or Benton City, can I burn?

The Washington Administrative Code (WAC) required that residential and land clearing burning in urban growth areas of cities larger than 5,000 be banned as of January 1, 2001. For cities smaller than 5,000, such as Benton City, outdoor burning was allowed until January 1, 2004. However, as of January 1, burning is now banned in the UGA of Benton City as well. Recent changes in the State law have further defined what types of burning can or cannot take place within the urban growth areas. Based on these changes, the following is a summary list of the applicable rules for burning in the urban growth areas of Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Prosser, and Benton City.

If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the Urban Growth Area (UGA), you may search your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304 .

PROHIBITED

  • burning yard debris (leaves, branches, etc.) at your property
  • transferring material from Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Prosser, or Benton City to outside the UGA for the purpose of burning the material
  • the use of burn barrels
  • burning for land-clearing purposes
  • burning tumbleweeds that are growing on your property
  • burning garbage, dead animals, asphalt, petroleum products, paints, rubber products, plastics, paper (other than what is necessary to start the fire), cardboard, treated wood, construction debris, metal, or any substance (other than natural vegetation) which when burned releases toxic emissions, dense smoke, or odors.” (WAC 173-425-050(2))

ALLOWED WITH A PERMIT

  • burning a recreational fire greater than 3 feet in diameter.

ALLOWED WITHOUT A PERMIT

  • burning a recreational fire that is less than 3 feet in diameter
  • burning tumbleweeds that blew on to your property

Can I burn? My residence is outside the Urban Growth Area.

If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the UGA, you may search your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304.

If you have confirmed that your residence is outside of the urban growth area, you may burn under the residential burning rules.

In 1995, the Washington State legislature changed some of the burning rules and how they were applied in different parts of the State. For those residents outside of the UGA, the following rules apply:

PROHIBITED

  • burning garbage, dead animals, asphalt, petroleum products, paints, rubber products, plastics, paper (other than what is necessary to start the fire), cardboard, treated wood, construction debris, metal, or any substance (other than natural vegetation) which when burned releases toxic emissions, dense smoke, or odors.” (WAC 173-425-050(2))

PROHIBITED AS OF JAN 1, 2001

  • the use of burn barrels

ALLOWED ON A BURN DAY You must have a burn day before you may burn. The burn message, updated by 9 AM, is 509-783-6198.

  • Only material generated at your residence can be burned.
  • Only dry, natural vegetation can be burned. Burning paper (other than enough to start fire), plastic, lumber, building debris, and garbage is strictly prohibited.
  • Someone must be in attendance of the fire at all times and be able to put out the fire if necessary.
  • No fires are allowed within 50 feet of any flammable structure.
  • The pile size is limited to 4 ft by 4 ft by 3 ft high.
  • Only one pile can be burned at a time. Continually feeding material into one fire is OK.
  • The fire must be extinguished if it creates a nuisance.
  • You can only burn at your residential property or the property owner’s permission must be obtained prior to burning.
  • Your fire must be completely extinguished by the end of the burn day.

ALLOWED WITH A PERMIT

  • burning for weed abatement (including tumbleweeds growing on your property)
  • burning a recreational fire greater than 3 feet in diameter.

What is an “Urban Growth Area” and how do I know if my residence is inside or outside?

The applicable open burning regulations depend upon where the property is located with respect to the “Urban Growth Area”, or UGA. The urban growth area (UGA) is defined by a line that the incorporated cities (Richland, Kennewick, West Richland, Benton City, and Prosser) expect to grow into during the next 20 years. The UGA includes all the city limits, the “islands” of County within the cities, and some parts of County land immediately adjacent to the city limits. Those properties that lie inside of this boundary have different burning rules than those properties lying outside the boundary. If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the UGA, you may search for your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304.

Urban Growth Area Maps are here.

I can’t meet some or all of the burn rules, is there another way I can burn legally?

Many of the burn rules are, in many cases, restrictive by design. By creating these rules, the State can reduce the amount of burning taking place in the urban areas, reducing both air pollution and fire risk. However, there are circumstances where the BCAA can allow an individual or company to burn outside of these rules.

A Special Burn Permit may be issued under specific circumstances. The permit has an associated fee that is assessed in two parts. First, there is a $75 non-refundable application fee that must accompany the written application. This allows the BCAA Inspector to process the application and if necessary, inspect the materials to be burned prior to burning. The application can either be accepted or rejected at this point. If accepted, there is an additional charge of no more than $8.50 per cubic yard of material to be burned. The fees must be paid within 30 days of the permit being issued. A permit is issued that is specific to the applicant’s type of burning. The permit conditions often will allow more “burn days” than would be available under the urban are spring and fall burn windows.

If you would like to apply for a Special Burn Permit, the application is Special Burn Permit Request along with the fee, to the BCAA. If you have any questions, please contact us.

How does the BCAA determine whether or not to allow a “burn day”?

Information on how the daily burn decision is made is here.

“What about burning” answers to these questions are found here:*

  • tumbleweeds blown on to my property?
  • tumbleweeds that are growing on my property?
  • in a woodstove, barbecue, or fireplace?
  • for recreation (campfire or bonfire)?
  • in a burn barrel?
  • construction debris on my property?
  • on my small/hobby orchard?
  • on a lot or area that is a fire hazard?

How do I build a good, hot fire, that does not produce a lot of smoke? The Boy Scouts of America recommend when burning a fire:

1. Use dry, seasoned wood. Do not burn material that has just been cut or has been soaked by moisture. 2. Use a mixture of material of different sizes and thickness. Start with small tinder: like dry moss or really dry pine needles. Next, put kindling into the fire. Kindling are small pieces of wood no larger than the width of one of your fingers. Arrange your third and last material, the “fuel” (larger material), in a teepee type style. Put a break in the pattern, like a door to the teepee, facing into the wind. This break allows the breeze to blow into the fire and creates a hotter, more efficient fire. 3. Light your fire with matches, no fuel (gasoline, lighter fluid, etc.) should be necessary, through the door of the teepee. Start by lighting the tinder, the tinder will then catch the remaining material on fire. Add material as the fire burns hot and quickly.

My property is zoned agriculture. Do I follow the open burning rules or the agricultural burning rules?

State law views residential burning and agricultural burning as two separate issues, both with associated laws. In order to qualify an agricultural burn permit you must show evidence of agricultural activity taking place, usually in the form of supplying a copy of the IRS form Schedule F: Profit and Loss from Farming. Only those operations with proof of an agricultural operation will be issued an agricultural burn permit. The zoning regulations are local regulations and do not apply to burning applications. Areas which are zoned agriculture, but do not supply this proof, must comply with the general rule burn rules and the “burn days”.

Urban Growth Area Information

The applicable open burning regulations depend upon where the property is located with respect to the “Urban Growth Area”, or UGA. The urban growth area (UGA) is defined by a line that the incorporated cities (Richland, Kennewick, West Richland, Benton City, and Prosser) expect to grow into during the next 20 years. The UGA includes all the city limits, the “islands” of County within the cities, and some parts of County land immediately adjacent to the city limits. Those properties that lie inside of this boundary have different burning rules than those properties lying outside the boundary. If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the UGA, you can search your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304.

Regulations

Ecology’s rule on Outdoor Burning is here.

Daily Burn Decision

This information applies only to residents that live outside of the urban growth area. If you are inside the city limits of Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Benton City, or Prosser you are never allowed to burn yard debris at your residence. Also please note, that just because your property is outside of city limits, does not mean that you are also outside the urban growth area. To search whether your address is within an urban growth area, click here. You may also call the Benton County Planning Dept. or Benton Clean Air Agency for help determining whether you are inside or outside the urban growth area.

The Residential and Agricultural burn line numbers can be found in the top left corner of the page. Please call to find out the current conditions and restrictions. The daily burn decision is also available here.

The burn decision is made every morning prior to 9:00 am and is based on that day’s forecasted meteorological conditions. If necessary, the burn lines are updated to reflect the status of the burn decision. Should conditions unexpectedly change, the burn line may be updated as needed.

When making the burn decision, the BCAA utilizes information from the National Weather Service and a modeling forecast produced by the University of WA, in cooperation with the Dept of Ecology. This modeling forecast is called the “MM5” and gives a projected forecast of the atmospheric dispersion conditions, throughout the state, at different times throughout the day.

These tools are used uniformly throughout most of the state in making the daily agricultural burn decision. Forecasted wind speeds are not a primary factor in determining agricultural burn days in Benton County. Fire safety is the responsibility of the farmers. Wind warnings are given on the burn day message for surface wind speeds forecasted above 15 mph.

The residential burn decision is based on the same information used to make the agricultural burn decision. However, in consideration for fire safety and at the request of our local fire departments, wind speed is taken into consideration. When the surface wind speeds from the National Weather Service office in Pendleton, OR for the Columbia Basin are forecast to exceed 20 mph, residential burning will not be allowed. For forecasted surface wind speeds between 15 and 20 mph, a wind warning is issued.

For outdoor burning, the Benton Clean Air Agency allows burning generally only when dispersion conditions are forecasted to be good.

Bright sunny days are frequently not good smoke dispersion days and are characterized by high pressure systems. The latter characteristically has descending air masses, low mixing level ceilings, and little horizontal air movement. Known in meteorology as stable air masses, all the factors associated with these air masses combine to limit the both the volume and vertical mixing of near-surface air. Air pollutants emitted into the air under these conditions from any source, one of which may be outdoor burning, are effectively trapped and do not disperse by vertical mixing and horizontal transport at higher altitudes.

In contrast, low pressure weather systems are characterized by unstable air that is rising and frequently turbulent. Both vertical mixing with high elevation mixing levels and horizontal air movement very effectively dilute and disperse air pollutants emitted into the air.

Unfortunately, these meteorologically unstable air masses frequently have high wind speeds and gusty wind plus precipitation. High gusty wind conditions pose a fire safety hazard.

Outdoor Burning

Residential Burning Program

Under the residential burning program, only residents located outside of the Urban Growth Area are allowed to burn. Residents outside the UGA must still call the residential burn line to find out whether or not it is a burn day. The phone number is located at the top of the page, and is updated on a daily basis. You may also find the burn decision, here.

To search whether your address is within an Urban Growth Area of Benton County, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page.

If it is a burn day, and you are located outside of the UGA, the following burning rules apply:

  • Only dry natural vegetation may be burned
  • Only one pile at a time may be burned, and the pile must be extinguished before ingniting another
  • The pile must be no larger than 4 feet by 4 feet by 3 feet tall
  • The fire must be located 50 feet from all flamable structures
  • You must be in attendance of the fire at all times
  • You must not create a nuisance with the smoke from your fire
  • The use of burn barrels is prohibited

Failure to adhere to these rules may result in the issuance of a violation and/or fine.

Residents Inside The Urban Growth Area

Residents located inside the Urban Growth Area are not allowed to burn for disposal purposes.

The following types of burning are allowed inside the Urban Growth Area:

1. Burning of tumbleweeds that have blown on to your property using the following guidelines:
- You must call the burn line to see if tumbleweed burning has been banned due to high winds or fire safety
- You must not create a nuisance with the smoke
- You must be in attendance of the fire at all times
- The use of burn barrels is prohibited

2. Recreational Fires using the following guidelines:
- The fire must not be larger than 3 feet by 3 feet by 2 feet tall
- You must be in attendance at all times
- Only dry, seasoned firewood may be used; The fire cannot be used for disposal purposes
- The fire must be 50 feet from all flammable structures
- You must not create a nuisnace with the smoke
- The use of burn barrels is prohibited

3. Barbeques

4. Woodstoves

Failure to adhere to the guidelines listed above may result in a violation and/or fine.

Fees

A. An application fee for an agricultural burning permit shall be due and payable at the time of submittal of the application.

B. Upon approval of any agricultural burning permit application, the BCAA shall charge a fee at a maximum fee level as set by statute.

C. Minimum and variable fee levels are as follows:

  • Thirty seven dollars and fifty cents ($37.50) per calendar year per field burn based on burning up to ten acres or equivalent; Each additional acre is $3.75 per acre.
  • Eighty dollars ($80.00) for pile burning per calendar year per agricultural operation based on burning debris from up to 80 tons or equivalent; Each additional ton is $1.00 per ton.

The agricultural burning practices and research task force may set acreage equivalents, for non-field style agricultural burning practices, based on the amount of emissions relative to typical field burning emissions. Any acreage equivalents, established by rule, shall be used in determining fees. For agricultural burning conducted by irrigation or drainage districts, each mile of ditch (including banks) burned is calculated on an equivalent acreage basis.

For a complete breakdown of the fee schedule, click here.

Agricultural Burning Permits and Forms

Most commercial burning of agricultural fields or for agricultural purposes requires a permit from the BCAA.

Agricultural Permit is required for ..

  • Orchard or vineyard takeout
  • Vineyard prunings
  • Disease or weed control
  • Residue removal
  • Research/demonstration project
  • Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) or renovation purposes
  • “Flaming” of hop roots

Agricultural Permit is not required* for ..

  • Orchard prunings
  • Natural vegetation along fencelines, irrigation canals, or drainage ditches.
  • Tumbleweeds

*NOTE: Conversion of agricultural property to commercial or residential use, such as removal of an orchard to put in a housing development is not considered agricultural burning and is not allowed with an agricultural burn permit.

Regardless of whether the agricultural burn requires a permit, you must contact your local fire department and inform them prior to burning.

Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs)

Agricultural burning is allowed when it is reasonably necessary to carry out the enterprise. A farmer can show burning is reasonably necessary when it meets the criteria of the BMPs and no practical alternative exists. BMPs are one of the ways to demonstrate the need to burn. Growers not using BMPs must establish that their proposed burn is reasonably necessary and that no practical alternative is available. The burden of proof is on the grower, and the demonstration must satisfy the Department of Ecology and the local delegated permitting authority, if there is a local permitting authority.

Current BMP Information:

  • Agricultural Burning Best Management Practices – click here

Permit Applications

Before an agricultural burn permit is issued, an application must be submitted and processed. You will need both the permit application and a copy of one of the Best Management Guidelines documents:

The following steps describe the application procedure:

  • Fill out the application. Be specific and COMPLETE. Refer to the Best Management Practices Guidance document as necessary. Incomplete applications will not be processed.
  • Calculate the total acres/tons and fee In the space provided, write the number of acres/tons from each of the proposed burns. Add together the acres/tons of each proposed burn, this is the number of acres/tons proposed.
  • Make checks payable to BCAA. Please do not send cash.
  • Sign and date the applicant statement portion.
  • Send the application and check for the permit fee to:

Benton Clean Air Agency
526 S. Steptoe St.
Kennewick, WA 99336

Receiving Your Permit

The BCAA will act on a complete application within seven (7) days and either send to you a permit or written reason why the application has been denied. If an incomplete application is submitted, it will be returned along with the fee.

Agricultural Burning Regulations

There are three sources of agricultural burning regulations which pertain to the residents of Benton County:

What About Burning ...

… on an orchard?

Burning on an orchard is considered agricultural burning and is subject to WAC 173-430. In order to burn you must have filed a Schedule F (Profit and Loss from Farming) form with the IRS. If you have not, you may not burn for agricultural purposes and may be cited for burning in your orchard.

The same laws that govern other types of agricultural burning also regulate burning on an orchard. There are, however, some differences relating to the reasons why a particular burn is being conducted. It is important that the orchardist is well informed prior to burning on orchard lands in order to lessen the chances for enforcement action.

There are three types of burning that can take place on an orchard, each with differing requirements.

  • Crop Rotation: Tree removal with intent to replace with different tree “crop”

Orchardists who plan to change crops by removing existing trees and replacing with another tree type or a different agricultural product, will need to apply for an Agricultural Burn Permit. Burning the “old” trees are subject to the conditions on the permit and burning is limited to agricultural “burn days”.

  • Crop Removal: Tree removal with intent to change land use, for example using the land for a housing development

In many cases, orchards are converted to some other land use, such as a housing development. Since the land will no longer be used for agricultural purposes the trees that are removed cannot be burned under an Agricultural Burning Permit. However, a Special Burn Permit can be used for this purpose. The Special Burn Permit carries a non-refundable $50 application fee plus an additional fee based upon the total volume of material to be burned (maximum $8.50 per cubic yard). A Special Burn Permit application can be downloaded (PDF).

  • Orchard prunings

A permit is not needed to burn tree prunings. Prunings can be burned at any time regardless of the agricultural “burn day”. However, care must be taken so that the smoke does not impact neighboring residents. By causing impact on residents, the fire may need to be extinguished and depending upon circumstances, possible BCAA enforcement action may apply.

... on a vineyard?

After much deliberation with the WSU Cooperative Extension and with several vinyardists, it was established that vineyard prunings do not fall into the same category as orchard prunings. As such, any burning on a vineyard requires an Agricultural Burning Permit and needs to follow the general agricultural burn rules.

... on a grass seed farm?

Most grass-seed field burning in Washington State has been ended by the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology). Ecology has officially certified alternatives to grass seed field burning that are practical and reasonably available. Ecology has also determined that mechanical residue management is a viable and reasonable available alternative in most cases. Only under limited specific situations may some burning of grass-seed fields take place. For more information contact the BCAA Inspector Rob Rodger , or go to the Department of Ecology Air Program.

... “flaming” or burning hop roots?

The BCAA and the Department of Ecology considers “flaming” and the burning of hop roots to be agricultural burning. As such, this type of burning requires an Agricultural Burning permit and need to follow the general agricultural burn rules.

... for non-agricultural purposes (land-clearing)?

An agricultural burn permit can only be used in circumstances that directly affect the propagation of field crops. An example would be the burning or wheat stubble, or the removal of an orchard to plant new fruit trees. However, if agricultural purposes will be ceased on a property and the land is to be cleared for another purpose, such as a housing development, an agricultural burning permit cannot be used for this purpose and a special burn permit is required. A Special Burn permit carries a non-refundable $50 application fee plus a negotiable $8.50 per cubic yard of to-be-burned material fee. An application for a Special Burn Permit can be downloaded (PDF).

Special Burn Permit Request

Agricultural Burning Regulations

  • Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 173-430 click here

Agricultural Daily Burn Decision

When is the next burn day?

Agricultural Burn Day

Burn days are not called in advance. BCAA staff checks for forecasted air dispersion conditions, which if they meet the critieria, mean that any smoke generated from burning should be diluted enough not to impact the general population. Wind speeds are also taken into consideration when making the daily decision. If strong winds are forcasted, incidental burning may also not be allowed in addition to permitted burning.

Also, most types of agricultural burns require a permit, others do not. Be sure that you understand whether or not you need a permit. Burning without a permit may lead to enforcement actions. Please do not hesitate to contact the BCAA office for clarification and assistance.

The burn day message is updated at 9 a.m. daily; no burn day will ever start prior to 9 a.m.

BCAA Office Agricultural Burn Line: 509-783-6570 or CLICK HERE

Burning

Burning, whether done indoors for heat or outdoors for recreation, creates unhealthful air pollution. Before burning, you need to know if burning is allowed and under what circumstances. By following the rules, you will keep smoke emissions to a minimum and avoid a potentially costly fine.

Agricultural Burning
In this section learn more about:

  • Agricultural Burning Best Manage Practices
  • Agricultural Burning Rules and permits

Outdoor Burning
In this section, learn more about:

  • Outdoor burning in Benton County – what’s allowed, what’s not
  • Residential, Land Clearing
  • Alternatives to burning
  • Health effects of burning – what you should know

Woodstoves and Fireplaces
In this section learn more about:

  • Key facts about wood heating
  • Air quality requirements related to wood burning
  • Limits on visible chimney smoke (opacity limits)

Outdoor Burning Fact Sheets

Agricultural Burning

The way agricultural burning is being managed is changing in the Northwest, with Washington State leading the way. This change is part of a comprehensive revision of the state’s air pollution laws that affects not just agriculture, but many other commercial, individual and governmental activities. The Clean Air Washington Act of 1991 (Chapter 70.94 RCW) states that those who contribute to air pollution will share the job of protecting air quality.

Agricultural burning is setting fire to:

  • Crop residue after harvest in order to reduce excess plant material and hinder pest infestations
  • Fruit tree debris from orchards after pruning or tree removal
  • Cereal grain (wheat, barley, corn and oats) stubble after harvest

All agricultural burning must follow Best Management Practices. Information on these BMP’s is found here.

Questions about burning

What is “agricultural burning” and how is it different from other forms of burning?

Agricultural burning is one of three kinds of outdoor burning. Outdoor burning also includes silvicultural (forest land) burning, and “open burning” — any other kind of burning outdoors in the open or in containers. As a farm management tool, an estimated 3, 000 to 5,000 agricultural fires are set each year in Washington, with up to 600,000 acres thought to be burned. Studies show that air quality levels can exceed federal health standards in areas affected by outdoor burning, especially from larger fires, or when dispersion of smoke by the wind is poor.

The Washington Clean Air Act (RCW 70.94) protects air quality in the state. Specifically, the RCW requires agricultural permits for commercial agricultural operations that burn natural vegetation as a farm management tool. The law also requires that the grower show the burning is reasonably necessary to carry out the enterprise. Agricultural burning meeting the criteria of the best management practices (identified by the agricultural burning practices and research task force) and where no practical alternative exists automatically satisfies this requirement. For further information, also see WAC 173-430.

Other forms of outdoor burning, such as that which is done at residences within the urban areas are considered to be waste-disposal, not as a management tool. This is primarily why many forms of outdoor burning are being phased out over time.

When is the next agricultural burn day?

Agricultural burn days are not called in advance. The BCAA staff checks for forecast air circulation conditions, which if good, mean that any smoke generated from burning should be diluted enough not to impact the general population. Because wind speed considerations are not taken into account when determining an agricultural burn day, it is the responsibility of the agricultural operation to determine if it is safe to burn or not.

Also, certain types of agricultural burns require a permit while others do not. Be sure that you understand whether or not you need a permit. Burning without a permit may lead to enforcement actions. Please do not hesitate to contact the BCAA office for clarification and assistance.

The burn day message is updated at 9 a.m. daily; no burn day will ever start prior to 9 a.m.

BCAA Office Agricultural Burn Line: 783-6570 or CLICK HERE

Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs)

Agricultural burning is allowed when it is reasonably necessary to carry out the enterprise. A farmer can show burning is reasonably necessary when it meets the criteria of the BMPs and no practical alternative exists. BMPs are one of the ways to demonstrate the need to burn. Growers not using BMPs must establish that their proposed burn is reasonably necessary and that no practical alternative is available. The burden of proof is on the grower, and the demonstration must satisfy the Department of Ecology and the local delegated permitting authority, if there is a local permitting authority.

Permits:

Many kinds of agricultural burning require permits. Information about permit applications, and the regulations upon which these programs are based is found here:

Do I need a permit to burn and how do I get one?

Agricultural Burning Permits and Forms

When is an agricultural burn permit not necessary?

Agricultural Burning Permits and Forms

What about burning?:

Other Agricultural Burning

  • on an commercial orchard
  • on a vineyard
  • on a grass seed farm
  • “flaming” or burning hop roots
  • for non-agricultural purposes (land-clearing)

The Department of Ecology’s page on Agricultural Burning is here.

Benton Clean Air Agency

Benton Clean Air Agency

Burn Decision & UGA Map



Determine whether or not you may burn at your location on residential burn days

Please enter your address to determine whether you are in an urban growth area of Benton County

Notices of Violation

If I am caught burning illegally, what will happen?

Enforcement actions usually begin once the BCAA receives complaints about illegal burning taking place. One of our inspectors is sent to the site to judge the severity of the violation and to document what is going on. The Inspector will try to locate the responsible individual or company and make them aware of the violations. At this point, the fire is required to be extinguished. After the Inspector finishes at the site, one of two things happens, either a warning letter or a Notice of Violation (NOV) is issued.

Warning letters are sent out if the violation was relatively minor or if the burner was uninformed. Once a warning letter is sent, the BCAA generally considers the case closed. If there are further violations after an individual or company has received a warning letter, the enforcement action may increase to an NOV, which is a much firmer form of enforcement.

The NOV is an official enforcement action and should be taken very seriously. Essentially the NOV is a ticket that informs the burner of the laws that were violated and of the Inspector’s findings at the site. The NOV starts the process of a formal case against the burner and cannot be appealed.Thirty days after the burner receives the NOV, the BCAA may assess a penalty in another formal document called a Notice of Penalty (NOP). According to Washington State law, penalties of up to $10,000 per violation per day may be assessed. For example, burning garbage in the city limits one a no-burn day with no mean to put the fire out equates to three violations or a maximum of $30,000 fine. Generally, though the BCAA does not fine to the greatest extent of the law and actual fines can be much lower.

I have received a “Notice of Violation”. What does it mean and what do I do now?

If you have received a Notice of Violation (NOV), it means that you have violated one or more air quality regulations. The NOV serves as official notice of the laws that were violated and of the Inspector’s report on the situation. It is important that you read the NOV very carefully. The NOV cannot be appealed. However, you may send written documentation to the BCAA indicating your understanding of the situation.

Thirty days after you receive your NOV, you may receive a Notice of Penalty (NOP). The NOP is the official notice of a fine being levied against you. You may or may not receive an NOP, as one is assigned on a case-by-case basis. The NOP is appealable and several options are presented in the NOP documentation. Again, you should read the documentation very carefully.

If you have any questions, please contact BCAA.

I have received a “Notice of Penalty”. What does it mean and what do I do now?

if you have received a Notice of Penalty (NOP), it means that thirty days have passed since you received the Notice of Violation (NOV). The NOP is the official notice of a fine being levied against you. The NOP is appealable and several options are presented in the NOP documentation. Again, you should read the documentation very carefully.

Option 1: Pay the fine in full. If you take option 1, your full payment is due within 30 days.

Option 2: Consent Order (CO). (Note: A consent order may or may not be available.) The CO represents a reduced penalty that may be paid in lieu of full payment if you do not commit a similar violation within the next year. By taking the CO, you forfeit the other avenues of mitigation and appeal. Once the paperwork has been filed and signed and the reduced penalty paid (within 30 days), the BCAA considered the case closed. However, if the conditions of the CO are not adhered to, for example a similar future violation within a year, the original penalty is reinstated and an additional NOV and NOP may be issued.

Option 3: Application for Relief of Penalty (ARP). If you feel that the penalty is unjustified and wish to contest the penalty this is the option to take. It is an opportunity to tell your recollection of the events that lead to the NOV. Note, however, that if a reduction of penalty is granted, it will not be less than that offered on the CO. The ARP must be filed within 15 days.

Option 4: Appeal to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board (PCHB).
This is your opportunity to have a day in court. The PCHB is a state level hearing board that will hear the your case. The PCHB has the power to overturn the penalty issued by the BCAA. However, if you choose this option, the PCHB will be considering the full amount of the penalty, not the amount listed in the CO. In most cases, the PCHB does not lower the penalty below that offered on the CO.

If you have any questions about your NOP or your legal options, please contact BCAA.

Also note that there are several timed deadlines that you should follow. Failure to meet specific deadlines nullifies certain avenues of appeal.

Fire Protection Districts

A link to the Fire Protection District Map is here.

City/Region Fire District Phone #
Benton City BCFPD #2 509-588-3212
Benton County (East) BCFPD #1 509-734-9100
Benton County (West) BCFPD #5 509-786-1723
Finley BCFPD #1 509-734-9100
Kennewick Fire Department 509-585-4230
Patterson BCFPD #6 509-875-2029
Plymouth BCFPD #6 509-875-2029
Prosser BCFPD #3 509-786-3873
Prosser (South) BCFPD #5 509-786-1723
Richland Fire Department 509-942-7550
West Richland BCFPD #4 509-967-2945


Smoke Opacity

Smoke Opacity

State law prohibits the generation of excessive chimney smoke. Except for brief periods during start-up and refueling, smoke is in violation when it obscures objects viewed through it by more than 20%.

Generation of smoke densities greater than 20% could result in fines from air pollution control officials. Stoves operated with dry wood and a generous air supply produce less smoke and more heat.

Woodstoves and Fireplaces

Clean Home Heating

Many people don’t think of the smoke from their wood stove or fireplace as air pollution. Some people even like the smell of wood smoke. But wood smoke is one of the main sources of air pollution in Washington.

Wood smoke contains fine particles, PM 2.5, which are associated with serious health effects, as the tiny size of these pollutants allows them to be easily inhaled, bypassing the immune system and proceeding deep into your lungs, where they can cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems, including premature death.

In winter, more than half of Washington’s fine particle air pollution comes from the homes being heated using wood. Wood stoves, fireplaces and other wood-burning devices put out hundreds of times more air pollution than other sources of heat such as natural gas, propane, oil or electricity.

Video on How to Select a New Stove for Home Heat

Video on How to Operate Your Wood Stove More Efficiently

The fire: Give it air!

The right amount of air gives you a hotter fire and more complete combustion. That translates to more heat from your wood and less smoke and pollution. Here are some cleaner burning tips:

  • Build small, hot fires. Don’t add too much fuel at one time.
  • Step outside and check the chimney or flue. If you can see smoke, your fire may need more air.
  • Read and follow the stove manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Don’t “bank” the stove full of wood and damper down the air supply. This wastes wood, produces much air pollution, promotes accumulation of creosote (which requires more frequent cleaning and can lead to chimney fires) and yields very little heat. Half-full is adequate; it provides enough air space for efficient combustion.
  • Don’t damper down too far. Allow enough air to reach the wood. This varies among models and kinds of stoves.
  • Make sure your stove is the right size for your home. Too large a stove will overheat your living space. You’ll want to damper down. This causes added pollution and wastes wood.
  • Don’t burn in moderate temperatures. You’ll want to damper down, which causes more pollution and wastes wood.
  • Don’t burn when air currents carry your smoke to your neighbor’s yard or house.
  • Only burn dry, seasoned firewood, never garbage. Burning garbage is illegal in the state of Washington and creates a greater health hazard.

The fuel: keep it dry!

Wood can seem dry and still contain plenty of water, up to 50 percent. The moisture in wood makes the fire give off more smoke. On the other hand, dry wood can provide up to 44 percent more heat. It is against state law to burn wood with more than 20 percent moisture content in fireplaces or wood stoves.

Two things work very well at making sure your wood is dry enough: time and cover. Whether you buy wood or harvest your own, follow these tips to get it fire-ready:

  • Split it. The wood will dry best and burn most efficiently if the pieces are three and one-half to six inches in diameter.
  • Cover it. Protect the wood from rain and weather. Stack it loosely-in layers of alternating directions- to allow plenty of air circulation. Store it at least six inches off the ground.
  • Give it a year. Wood that has been split, dried and stored under cover for at least one year usually meets the 20 percent moisture content requirement.

State law does not regulate the dryness of any wood sold. If the seller states that the wood is dry or seasoned, consider it a claim; make sure for yourself. You—and not the seller—are responsible for the dryness of the wood you put on your fire.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I burn in my woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue on a “no burn day”?

Yes. Woodstove, fireplace, and barbecue use is unrestricted at all times. The burn day decision does not apply to these devices. The only time when use is restricted is during a statewide air pollution episode, which occurs rarely.

Can I burn paper or garbage in my woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue?

Washington State law prohibits the burning of paper, except that which is necessary to start the fire. Burning large amounts of paper is potentially very dangerous as often large burning embers exit the chimney and can cause fires outside the home. The burning of garbage is strictly prohibited by State law.

How do I know if I am burning correctly in my woodstove or fireplace?

Your woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue must be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Also, the amount of smoke produces by these devices must be minimized. The smoke coming out of your chimney should be almost colorless and thin. Thick, white or black smoke indicates that your fire is not receiving enough air. Woodstoves, fireplaces, and barbecues should be used in such a way as to minimize the impact on neighbors. Here are some additional tips:

  • Burn only dry fuel. Moist wood gives off more smoke and may produce up to 44% less heat.
  • Ideally, burn wood that has been split and dried for one year.
  • Never burn painted, stained or treated wood, colored newsprint, plastic, cardboard, garbage, diapers or magazines.
  • Twenty minutes after starting your fire, check your chimney for smoke. If you see any smoke, it probably exceeds the legal limit. Increase air to the fire for cleaner burning.
  • Burn small hot fires and allow plenty of air to reach the fire. Avoid excessive dampening to extend the duration of the burn, see The Myth of Air-Starved Burning below.
  • Never allow the fire to smolder. Smoldering fires pollute, are inefficient and are a fire hazard.

One myth, which is perhaps the most damaging to air quality and potentially damaging to health and safety, is that there are benefits to starving a wood stove for adequate combustion of air. A fire starved for air is excessively smoky because of incomplete combustion and therefore produces more unburned particulates and gaseous air pollutants than a hot fire with adequate air. Poor combustion also promotes the buildup of creosote in chimneys posing a fire hazard. Carbon monoxide from incomplete combustion can also buildup inside houses posing a direct threat of death by asphyxiation.

This myth had its origin in the 1970’s energy crisis when the popularity of wood stoves increased. Many poorly designed stoves have been marketed that are not air-tight and otherwise have poor combustion air controls. Manufacturers may have recommended, or owners may have discovered, the technique of severely restricting air flow to compensate for poor design. In addition, marginal economics and high labor requirements of wood burning have made conservation of wood a priority, which makes reducing wood consumption yet another excuse for starving wood stove fires for air.

Burning of uncured wood with moisture contents over 20% compounds the problems of poor combustion from air-starved fires by promoting even greater production of air pollutants and creosote. Burning high moisture wood decreases the usable energy from the wood because heat from burning is diverted into evaporating the water rather than heating the air as desired.

What are some of health effects from breathing smoke from woodstove, fireplaces or barbecues?*

Breathing air containing wood smoke can:

  • reduce lung function, especially in children;
  • increase severity of existing lung disease such as asthma, emphysema, pneumonia and bronchitis;
  • aggravate heart disease;
  • increase susceptibility to lower respiratory diseases;
  • irritate eyes, lungs, throat and sinuses;
  • trigger headaches and allergies.

Those at greatest health risk from wood smoke include:

  • fetuses, infants and children;
  • people with lung, heart, circulatory diseases or allergies;
  • the elderly;
  • cigarette smokers and ex-smokers.

Contents of wood smoke:

There are many components to wood smoke that can cause risk to your health. These compounds include:

  • carbon monoxide, fatal in high concentrations;
  • formaldehyde, a possible cause of human cancer;
  • organic gases which may interfere with lung function;
  • nitrogen oxides, linked to hardening of the arteries;
  • tiny smoke particles that lodge in the lungs causing structural damage. These tiny particles, or PM10, are less than 10 microns wide, or about 1/7 the diameter of a human hair.

What if my neighbor’s woodstove or fireplace is producing a strong, foul odor?

The primary cause of foul odors from woodstoves and fireplaces is the burning of green wood. Because green wood contains so much water, it does not burn efficiently and essentially just smolders. Smoldering fires are not hot enough to destroy the bulk of the odors. The solution to such a problem is to burn well-seasoned, dry wood in a hot fire, with lots of air. If you are bothered by a neighbor’s smoke, you should contact the BCAA office or file a complaint

What are the restrictions on buying or selling a used woodstove or fireplace in Benton County?

Since July 1, 1992, only EPA certified wood stoves and fireplace inserts may be legally sold or installed in Washington. There should be a metal tag permanently affixed to the device that will indicate EPA certification. According to Washington State law and BCAA Regulation 1, it is illegal to advertise to sell, offer to sell, sell, bargain, exchange, or give away an uninstalled used uncertified fireplace or woodstove. If you have any questions, please contact the BCAA.

A list of EPA certified woodstoves can be found at the Washington State Department of Ecology Air Program website

Alternatives to Outdoor Burning

Non-Burning Alternatives are available and many residents choose to chip or compost this material to use in their yard and garden. Others may haul their “clean green” to a local recycling transfer station or to a private collection company.

Instead of burning your yard debris, why not try an alternative. The following is a list of several that are available.

Composting

Want bigger, brighter, fuller flowers and county-fair-sized vegetables? Try composting your garden and yard debris. Nothing beats adding compost for soil enrichment. And if you think composting is just a fad of the ’90s, here’s and interesting fact: a Roman statesman named Marcus Cato introduced composting as a way to build up the soil of ancient Rome more that 2,000 years ago. In-the-know gardeners will tell you that nothing makes their gardens grow like a great homemade compost. Creating a balance of wet, “green” materials (such as grass clippings, certain food scraps, and various kinds of manure and dry, “brown” materials (the dry leaves and woody materials that you might previously burned!) creates the perfect compost. The “browns” are really carbon-rich materials and the “greens” are nitrogen-rich products that work together with microbes to build a soil-enriching compost for your garden. Need some more convincing reasons to compost?

Here’s a list of some of the great benefits of composting:

  • Composting is a perfect alternative to open (backyard) burning
  • Composting saves space in the landfill
  • Composing enriches the soil and turns out better plants and vegetables
  • Composting is convenient. Just think, the time and energy you now expend to bag and haul all your garden debris to the trash can, landfill, or transfer station can be turned into a useful product.
  • Composting saves money (less money spent on leaf bags, fertilizers, mulch, bagged compost, peat moss, or other soil enhancements).

For more information on backyard composting, call the Washington State University Cooperative Extension or the Benton County Solid Waste Department (see Resources below) or check out the BCAA Composting flier by clicking the burning tab at the top of the page and then scrolling to the bottom.

Make Your Own Mulch

Mulch is a protective covering for your plants, shrubs, and trees that truly benefits your garden. When it’s spread in garden beds or under shrubs and trees, mulch reduces evaporation, maintains even soil temperature, prevent erosion, controls weeds, and enriches the soil. You can make your own mulch by chipping “brown: or carbon-rich yard debris. Call the Washington State Cooperative Extension or the Benton County Solid Waste Department (see Resources below).

You can find out more information by viewing the BCAA Mulching flier by clicking the burning tab at the top of the page and then scrolling to the bottom.

Use a Mulching Mover for a Healthy Lawn

If you leave “mulched” grass on your lawn instead of burning the clippings, you’re doing your grass, yourself, and the environment a favor. Don’t worry, because this finely chopped grass has a temporary mulching effect but rapidly decomposes to return valuable nutrients to the soil. Together these benefits of a mulching mower help your lawn hold water and reduce fertilizer costs. Over time, the soils in our hot, dry climate become healthier simply from the added organic matter. Perhaps the best benefit is that you spend less time handling grass clippings. You can buy a mulching mower for the same cost as comparable non-mulching mowers and some models even have a mulch/no mulch/bagging option.

Chipping

Large quantities of woody vegetative material from yards, gardens, other landscaping features, or land- clearing can be turned into a useful product. The resulting wood chips can be used for a number of purposes. For more information, check out the BCAA Chipping flier by clicking the burning tab at the top of the page and then scrolling to the bottom.

Landscape Management

In our region, most people prefer irrigated lawns with trees, shrubs and grass for the benefits they provide: cooling, fire protection, and aesthetic environment. If you can incorporate some of the following ideas into your landscaping, you may lessen your yard debris:

Reduce or limit the number of trees and shrubs you plant

  • Plant varieties that minimize debris
  • Plant low-residue plant and native varieties that thrive in our grow zone
  • Consider planting a xeriscape – an urban landscape that decreases yard waste and conserves water as well. In xeriscapes, native or arid-zone adapted plants produce minimum residue and rely on natural rainfall only.

Use the Landfill

Disposing of your yard debris in a landfill is also an alternative to burning. This is especially true for people who can’t take advantage of composting, making mulch, mulching mowers, or installing low-residue landscaping. In other parts of the state, landfill space is at a premium, but in our region, landfill space is not currently a concern. However, disposing as recyclable yard debris in the landfill is an option that should be used only as necessary as a substitute for open burning.

Resources

Washington State University Cooperative Extension
Master Gardener Program
Tri-Cities (509) 735-3551
Prosser (509) 786-2226

Benton County Solid Waste Department
Tri-Cities (509)783-1310 ext 5682
Prosser (509)786-5611

City of Richland
Environmental Education Coordinator
505 Swift Blvd, Richland, WA 99352
(509) 942-7730

City of Kennewick
Solid Waste Environmental Division
210 W 6th Ave, Kennewick, WA 99336
(509) 585-4317

Burning Detail Questions

... tumbleweeds blown on to my property?

Tumbleweeds that have been blown on to your property can be burned at any time, regardless of the burn day and regardless of whether you are inside or outside the Urban Growth Area (UGA). However, only the tumbleweeds can be burned, any other vegetative material to be burned is subject to the rules specific to your location.

... tumbleweeds that are growing on my property?

If the tumbleweeds are growing on your property, you cannot burn them in place.

If tumbleweeds are actually growing on your property, you must obtain a special burn permit in order to burn the tumblewweds in-place. Be aware that therer is a fee charged for a special burn permit. You may want to consider an alternative to burning such as mulching, mowing, or composting. However, you may also want to try to control the weeds before they become a problem by mowing or using a commercial herbicide. For more information you can download a flyer on tumbleweed burning here (PDF).

... in a woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue?

At the present time, in Benton County, there are no restrictions on when you can use your woodstove, barbecue, or fireplace. However, you must burn properly to minimize the impact of smoke on your neighbors.

... for recreation (campfire or bonfire)?

As of April 13, 2000, the definition and rules about recreational fires have changed. Recreational fire means [by definition] cooking fires, campfires, and bonfires using charcoal or firewood that occur in designated areas or on private property for cooking or pleasure purposes (WAC 173-425-030). Fires used for debris disposal are not considered recreational fires. For more information you can download a flyer on recreational fires here (PDF).

Inside the UGA: Recreational fires that are larger than three feet in diameter and two feet high require a permit. Permit conditions may limit the date and time burning is allowed. Recreational fires smaller than 3’x2’ are allowed at any time, regardless of the “burn day”, and do not require a permit.

Outside the UGA: Recreational fires are allowed at any time and do not require a permit.

... in a burn barrel?

As of April 13, 2000, the use of the traditional metal burn barrel is illegal throughout the State. This was done primarily to make the state rule consistent with the Uniform Fire Code.

If you feel that you must use a system similar to the burn barrel, waste disposal is still allowed in an outdoor burning device. This device must be constructed of concrete or masonry with a completely enclosed combustion chamber and a permanently attached iron spark arrester (max 1/2 inch holes). The device can only be used to dispose of natural vegetative debris. Paper, garbage, wood products, and other prohibited materials are illegal to burn.

... construction debris on my property?

The burning of construction debris is prohibited by state law, WAC 173-425-050(2), and by BCAA Regulation 1 Article 5 Section 5.02E. Because of the significant amount of prohibited materials found in construction fires of the past, BCAA Regulation 1 strictly prohibits any fire from occurring on a construction site. This includes the burning of vegetative debris and the burning of tumbleweeds. Burning illegally on a construction site will likely result in a violation and fine.

... on my small/hobby orchard?

Small hobby farms and small orchards are also subject to burning rules and regulations. If the farm or orchard sells what it produces and files a Schedule F with its income taxes, the farm is considered to be a commercial operation and is subject to the agricultural burning rules. All other farms and orchards are considered to be non-commercial. As with residential burning of yard waste, the location of the property is important.

Because outdoor burning have been substantially banned within the UGA, there are no “burn days” per se that farms and orchards may use for waste disposal. The only option available for farms and orchards within the UGA is to apply for a Special Burning Permit. Please contact us for information and details.

Outside the UGA, a farm or orchard can burn its dry, natural vegetation as long as there is a burn day. Burn day status is available by calling 946-4489. However, the farm cannot clear fields and steps must be taken to minimize the impact of the smoke on neighbors. Failure to comply with these additional restrictions could result in enforcement action.

If there are any questions concerning burning on hobby farms and orchards, please contact us.

... on a lot or area that is a fire hazard?

Brush and weeds on a piece of property can be considered a fire hazard. However, you will need to have your local fire department come to your property and declare it a fire hazard. In addition, the fire department must agree that burning the material would be the safest way to eliminate the hazard; in most cases alternatives, such as mowing, are equally effective. If the fire department determines that the fire hazard would be reduced by burning, then the BCAA will issue a permit to burn the material.

Frequently Asked Questions about Outdoor Burning

What are some alternatives to burning?

Information on Alternatives to Burning is here.

My residence is inside the Urban Growth Area (UGA) of Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Prosser, or Benton City, can I burn?

The Washington Administrative Code (WAC) required that residential and land clearing burning in urban growth areas of cities larger than 5,000 be banned as of January 1, 2001. For cities smaller than 5,000, such as Benton City, outdoor burning was allowed until January 1, 2004. However, as of January 1, burning is now banned in the UGA of Benton City as well. Recent changes in the State law have further defined what types of burning can or cannot take place within the urban growth areas. Based on these changes, the following is a summary list of the applicable rules for burning in the urban growth areas of Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Prosser, and Benton City.

If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the Urban Growth Area (UGA), you may search your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304 .

PROHIBITED

  • burning yard debris (leaves, branches, etc.) at your property
  • transferring material from Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Prosser, or Benton City to outside the UGA for the purpose of burning the material
  • the use of burn barrels
  • burning for land-clearing purposes
  • burning tumbleweeds that are growing on your property
  • burning garbage, dead animals, asphalt, petroleum products, paints, rubber products, plastics, paper (other than what is necessary to start the fire), cardboard, treated wood, construction debris, metal, or any substance (other than natural vegetation) which when burned releases toxic emissions, dense smoke, or odors.” (WAC 173-425-050(2))

ALLOWED WITH A PERMIT

  • burning a recreational fire greater than 3 feet in diameter.

ALLOWED WITHOUT A PERMIT

  • burning a recreational fire that is less than 3 feet in diameter
  • burning tumbleweeds that blew on to your property

Can I burn? My residence is outside the Urban Growth Area.

If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the UGA, you may search your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304.

If you have confirmed that your residence is outside of the urban growth area, you may burn under the residential burning rules.

In 1995, the Washington State legislature changed some of the burning rules and how they were applied in different parts of the State. For those residents outside of the UGA, the following rules apply:

PROHIBITED

  • burning garbage, dead animals, asphalt, petroleum products, paints, rubber products, plastics, paper (other than what is necessary to start the fire), cardboard, treated wood, construction debris, metal, or any substance (other than natural vegetation) which when burned releases toxic emissions, dense smoke, or odors.” (WAC 173-425-050(2))

PROHIBITED AS OF JAN 1, 2001

  • the use of burn barrels

ALLOWED ON A BURN DAY You must have a burn day before you may burn. The burn message, updated by 9 AM, is 509-783-6198.

  • Only material generated at your residence can be burned.
  • Only dry, natural vegetation can be burned. Burning paper (other than enough to start fire), plastic, lumber, building debris, and garbage is strictly prohibited.
  • Someone must be in attendance of the fire at all times and be able to put out the fire if necessary.
  • No fires are allowed within 50 feet of any flammable structure.
  • The pile size is limited to 4 ft by 4 ft by 3 ft high.
  • Only one pile can be burned at a time. Continually feeding material into one fire is OK.
  • The fire must be extinguished if it creates a nuisance.
  • You can only burn at your residential property or the property owner’s permission must be obtained prior to burning.
  • Your fire must be completely extinguished by the end of the burn day.

ALLOWED WITH A PERMIT

  • burning for weed abatement (including tumbleweeds growing on your property)
  • burning a recreational fire greater than 3 feet in diameter.

What is an “Urban Growth Area” and how do I know if my residence is inside or outside?

The applicable open burning regulations depend upon where the property is located with respect to the “Urban Growth Area”, or UGA. The urban growth area (UGA) is defined by a line that the incorporated cities (Richland, Kennewick, West Richland, Benton City, and Prosser) expect to grow into during the next 20 years. The UGA includes all the city limits, the “islands” of County within the cities, and some parts of County land immediately adjacent to the city limits. Those properties that lie inside of this boundary have different burning rules than those properties lying outside the boundary. If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the UGA, you may search for your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304.

Urban Growth Area Maps are here.

I can’t meet some or all of the burn rules, is there another way I can burn legally?

Many of the burn rules are, in many cases, restrictive by design. By creating these rules, the State can reduce the amount of burning taking place in the urban areas, reducing both air pollution and fire risk. However, there are circumstances where the BCAA can allow an individual or company to burn outside of these rules.

A Special Burn Permit may be issued under specific circumstances. The permit has an associated fee that is assessed in two parts. First, there is a $75 non-refundable application fee that must accompany the written application. This allows the BCAA Inspector to process the application and if necessary, inspect the materials to be burned prior to burning. The application can either be accepted or rejected at this point. If accepted, there is an additional charge of no more than $8.50 per cubic yard of material to be burned. The fees must be paid within 30 days of the permit being issued. A permit is issued that is specific to the applicant’s type of burning. The permit conditions often will allow more “burn days” than would be available under the urban are spring and fall burn windows.

If you would like to apply for a Special Burn Permit, the application is Special Burn Permit Request along with the fee, to the BCAA. If you have any questions, please contact us.

How does the BCAA determine whether or not to allow a “burn day”?

Information on how the daily burn decision is made is here.

“What about burning” answers to these questions are found here:*

  • tumbleweeds blown on to my property?
  • tumbleweeds that are growing on my property?
  • in a woodstove, barbecue, or fireplace?
  • for recreation (campfire or bonfire)?
  • in a burn barrel?
  • construction debris on my property?
  • on my small/hobby orchard?
  • on a lot or area that is a fire hazard?

How do I build a good, hot fire, that does not produce a lot of smoke? The Boy Scouts of America recommend when burning a fire:

1. Use dry, seasoned wood. Do not burn material that has just been cut or has been soaked by moisture. 2. Use a mixture of material of different sizes and thickness. Start with small tinder: like dry moss or really dry pine needles. Next, put kindling into the fire. Kindling are small pieces of wood no larger than the width of one of your fingers. Arrange your third and last material, the “fuel” (larger material), in a teepee type style. Put a break in the pattern, like a door to the teepee, facing into the wind. This break allows the breeze to blow into the fire and creates a hotter, more efficient fire. 3. Light your fire with matches, no fuel (gasoline, lighter fluid, etc.) should be necessary, through the door of the teepee. Start by lighting the tinder, the tinder will then catch the remaining material on fire. Add material as the fire burns hot and quickly.

My property is zoned agriculture. Do I follow the open burning rules or the agricultural burning rules?

State law views residential burning and agricultural burning as two separate issues, both with associated laws. In order to qualify an agricultural burn permit you must show evidence of agricultural activity taking place, usually in the form of supplying a copy of the IRS form Schedule F: Profit and Loss from Farming. Only those operations with proof of an agricultural operation will be issued an agricultural burn permit. The zoning regulations are local regulations and do not apply to burning applications. Areas which are zoned agriculture, but do not supply this proof, must comply with the general rule burn rules and the “burn days”.

Urban Growth Area Information

The applicable open burning regulations depend upon where the property is located with respect to the “Urban Growth Area”, or UGA. The urban growth area (UGA) is defined by a line that the incorporated cities (Richland, Kennewick, West Richland, Benton City, and Prosser) expect to grow into during the next 20 years. The UGA includes all the city limits, the “islands” of County within the cities, and some parts of County land immediately adjacent to the city limits. Those properties that lie inside of this boundary have different burning rules than those properties lying outside the boundary. If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the UGA, you can search your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304.

Regulations

Ecology’s rule on Outdoor Burning is here.

Daily Burn Decision

This information applies only to residents that live outside of the urban growth area. If you are inside the city limits of Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Benton City, or Prosser you are never allowed to burn yard debris at your residence. Also please note, that just because your property is outside of city limits, does not mean that you are also outside the urban growth area. To search whether your address is within an urban growth area, click here. You may also call the Benton County Planning Dept. or Benton Clean Air Agency for help determining whether you are inside or outside the urban growth area.

The Residential and Agricultural burn line numbers can be found in the top left corner of the page. Please call to find out the current conditions and restrictions. The daily burn decision is also available here.

The burn decision is made every morning prior to 9:00 am and is based on that day’s forecasted meteorological conditions. If necessary, the burn lines are updated to reflect the status of the burn decision. Should conditions unexpectedly change, the burn line may be updated as needed.

When making the burn decision, the BCAA utilizes information from the National Weather Service and a modeling forecast produced by the University of WA, in cooperation with the Dept of Ecology. This modeling forecast is called the “MM5” and gives a projected forecast of the atmospheric dispersion conditions, throughout the state, at different times throughout the day.

These tools are used uniformly throughout most of the state in making the daily agricultural burn decision. Forecasted wind speeds are not a primary factor in determining agricultural burn days in Benton County. Fire safety is the responsibility of the farmers. Wind warnings are given on the burn day message for surface wind speeds forecasted above 15 mph.

The residential burn decision is based on the same information used to make the agricultural burn decision. However, in consideration for fire safety and at the request of our local fire departments, wind speed is taken into consideration. When the surface wind speeds from the National Weather Service office in Pendleton, OR for the Columbia Basin are forecast to exceed 20 mph, residential burning will not be allowed. For forecasted surface wind speeds between 15 and 20 mph, a wind warning is issued.

For outdoor burning, the Benton Clean Air Agency allows burning generally only when dispersion conditions are forecasted to be good.

Bright sunny days are frequently not good smoke dispersion days and are characterized by high pressure systems. The latter characteristically has descending air masses, low mixing level ceilings, and little horizontal air movement. Known in meteorology as stable air masses, all the factors associated with these air masses combine to limit the both the volume and vertical mixing of near-surface air. Air pollutants emitted into the air under these conditions from any source, one of which may be outdoor burning, are effectively trapped and do not disperse by vertical mixing and horizontal transport at higher altitudes.

In contrast, low pressure weather systems are characterized by unstable air that is rising and frequently turbulent. Both vertical mixing with high elevation mixing levels and horizontal air movement very effectively dilute and disperse air pollutants emitted into the air.

Unfortunately, these meteorologically unstable air masses frequently have high wind speeds and gusty wind plus precipitation. High gusty wind conditions pose a fire safety hazard.

Outdoor Burning

Residential Burning Program

Under the residential burning program, only residents located outside of the Urban Growth Area are allowed to burn. Residents outside the UGA must still call the residential burn line to find out whether or not it is a burn day. The phone number is located at the top of the page, and is updated on a daily basis. You may also find the burn decision, here.

To search whether your address is within an Urban Growth Area of Benton County, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page.

If it is a burn day, and you are located outside of the UGA, the following burning rules apply:

  • Only dry natural vegetation may be burned
  • Only one pile at a time may be burned, and the pile must be extinguished before ingniting another
  • The pile must be no larger than 4 feet by 4 feet by 3 feet tall
  • The fire must be located 50 feet from all flamable structures
  • You must be in attendance of the fire at all times
  • You must not create a nuisance with the smoke from your fire
  • The use of burn barrels is prohibited

Failure to adhere to these rules may result in the issuance of a violation and/or fine.

Residents Inside The Urban Growth Area

Residents located inside the Urban Growth Area are not allowed to burn for disposal purposes.

The following types of burning are allowed inside the Urban Growth Area:

1. Burning of tumbleweeds that have blown on to your property using the following guidelines:
- You must call the burn line to see if tumbleweed burning has been banned due to high winds or fire safety
- You must not create a nuisance with the smoke
- You must be in attendance of the fire at all times
- The use of burn barrels is prohibited

2. Recreational Fires using the following guidelines:
- The fire must not be larger than 3 feet by 3 feet by 2 feet tall
- You must be in attendance at all times
- Only dry, seasoned firewood may be used; The fire cannot be used for disposal purposes
- The fire must be 50 feet from all flammable structures
- You must not create a nuisnace with the smoke
- The use of burn barrels is prohibited

3. Barbeques

4. Woodstoves

Failure to adhere to the guidelines listed above may result in a violation and/or fine.

Fees

A. An application fee for an agricultural burning permit shall be due and payable at the time of submittal of the application.

B. Upon approval of any agricultural burning permit application, the BCAA shall charge a fee at a maximum fee level as set by statute.

C. Minimum and variable fee levels are as follows:

  • Thirty seven dollars and fifty cents ($37.50) per calendar year per field burn based on burning up to ten acres or equivalent; Each additional acre is $3.75 per acre.
  • Eighty dollars ($80.00) for pile burning per calendar year per agricultural operation based on burning debris from up to 80 tons or equivalent; Each additional ton is $1.00 per ton.

The agricultural burning practices and research task force may set acreage equivalents, for non-field style agricultural burning practices, based on the amount of emissions relative to typical field burning emissions. Any acreage equivalents, established by rule, shall be used in determining fees. For agricultural burning conducted by irrigation or drainage districts, each mile of ditch (including banks) burned is calculated on an equivalent acreage basis.

For a complete breakdown of the fee schedule, click here.

Agricultural Burning Permits and Forms

Most commercial burning of agricultural fields or for agricultural purposes requires a permit from the BCAA.

Agricultural Permit is required for ..

  • Orchard or vineyard takeout
  • Vineyard prunings
  • Disease or weed control
  • Residue removal
  • Research/demonstration project
  • Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) or renovation purposes
  • “Flaming” of hop roots

Agricultural Permit is not required* for ..

  • Orchard prunings
  • Natural vegetation along fencelines, irrigation canals, or drainage ditches.
  • Tumbleweeds

*NOTE: Conversion of agricultural property to commercial or residential use, such as removal of an orchard to put in a housing development is not considered agricultural burning and is not allowed with an agricultural burn permit.

Regardless of whether the agricultural burn requires a permit, you must contact your local fire department and inform them prior to burning.

Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs)

Agricultural burning is allowed when it is reasonably necessary to carry out the enterprise. A farmer can show burning is reasonably necessary when it meets the criteria of the BMPs and no practical alternative exists. BMPs are one of the ways to demonstrate the need to burn. Growers not using BMPs must establish that their proposed burn is reasonably necessary and that no practical alternative is available. The burden of proof is on the grower, and the demonstration must satisfy the Department of Ecology and the local delegated permitting authority, if there is a local permitting authority.

Current BMP Information:

  • Agricultural Burning Best Management Practices – click here

Permit Applications

Before an agricultural burn permit is issued, an application must be submitted and processed. You will need both the permit application and a copy of one of the Best Management Guidelines documents:

The following steps describe the application procedure:

  • Fill out the application. Be specific and COMPLETE. Refer to the Best Management Practices Guidance document as necessary. Incomplete applications will not be processed.
  • Calculate the total acres/tons and fee In the space provided, write the number of acres/tons from each of the proposed burns. Add together the acres/tons of each proposed burn, this is the number of acres/tons proposed.
  • Make checks payable to BCAA. Please do not send cash.
  • Sign and date the applicant statement portion.
  • Send the application and check for the permit fee to:

Benton Clean Air Agency
526 S. Steptoe St.
Kennewick, WA 99336

Receiving Your Permit

The BCAA will act on a complete application within seven (7) days and either send to you a permit or written reason why the application has been denied. If an incomplete application is submitted, it will be returned along with the fee.

Agricultural Burning Regulations

There are three sources of agricultural burning regulations which pertain to the residents of Benton County:

What About Burning ...

… on an orchard?

Burning on an orchard is considered agricultural burning and is subject to WAC 173-430. In order to burn you must have filed a Schedule F (Profit and Loss from Farming) form with the IRS. If you have not, you may not burn for agricultural purposes and may be cited for burning in your orchard.

The same laws that govern other types of agricultural burning also regulate burning on an orchard. There are, however, some differences relating to the reasons why a particular burn is being conducted. It is important that the orchardist is well informed prior to burning on orchard lands in order to lessen the chances for enforcement action.

There are three types of burning that can take place on an orchard, each with differing requirements.

  • Crop Rotation: Tree removal with intent to replace with different tree “crop”

Orchardists who plan to change crops by removing existing trees and replacing with another tree type or a different agricultural product, will need to apply for an Agricultural Burn Permit. Burning the “old” trees are subject to the conditions on the permit and burning is limited to agricultural “burn days”.

  • Crop Removal: Tree removal with intent to change land use, for example using the land for a housing development

In many cases, orchards are converted to some other land use, such as a housing development. Since the land will no longer be used for agricultural purposes the trees that are removed cannot be burned under an Agricultural Burning Permit. However, a Special Burn Permit can be used for this purpose. The Special Burn Permit carries a non-refundable $50 application fee plus an additional fee based upon the total volume of material to be burned (maximum $8.50 per cubic yard). A Special Burn Permit application can be downloaded (PDF).

  • Orchard prunings

A permit is not needed to burn tree prunings. Prunings can be burned at any time regardless of the agricultural “burn day”. However, care must be taken so that the smoke does not impact neighboring residents. By causing impact on residents, the fire may need to be extinguished and depending upon circumstances, possible BCAA enforcement action may apply.

... on a vineyard?

After much deliberation with the WSU Cooperative Extension and with several vinyardists, it was established that vineyard prunings do not fall into the same category as orchard prunings. As such, any burning on a vineyard requires an Agricultural Burning Permit and needs to follow the general agricultural burn rules.

... on a grass seed farm?

Most grass-seed field burning in Washington State has been ended by the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology). Ecology has officially certified alternatives to grass seed field burning that are practical and reasonably available. Ecology has also determined that mechanical residue management is a viable and reasonable available alternative in most cases. Only under limited specific situations may some burning of grass-seed fields take place. For more information contact the BCAA Inspector Rob Rodger , or go to the Department of Ecology Air Program.

... “flaming” or burning hop roots?

The BCAA and the Department of Ecology considers “flaming” and the burning of hop roots to be agricultural burning. As such, this type of burning requires an Agricultural Burning permit and need to follow the general agricultural burn rules.

... for non-agricultural purposes (land-clearing)?

An agricultural burn permit can only be used in circumstances that directly affect the propagation of field crops. An example would be the burning or wheat stubble, or the removal of an orchard to plant new fruit trees. However, if agricultural purposes will be ceased on a property and the land is to be cleared for another purpose, such as a housing development, an agricultural burning permit cannot be used for this purpose and a special burn permit is required. A Special Burn permit carries a non-refundable $50 application fee plus a negotiable $8.50 per cubic yard of to-be-burned material fee. An application for a Special Burn Permit can be downloaded (PDF).

Special Burn Permit Request

Agricultural Burning Regulations

  • Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 173-430 click here

Agricultural Daily Burn Decision

When is the next burn day?

Agricultural Burn Day

Burn days are not called in advance. BCAA staff checks for forecasted air dispersion conditions, which if they meet the critieria, mean that any smoke generated from burning should be diluted enough not to impact the general population. Wind speeds are also taken into consideration when making the daily decision. If strong winds are forcasted, incidental burning may also not be allowed in addition to permitted burning.

Also, most types of agricultural burns require a permit, others do not. Be sure that you understand whether or not you need a permit. Burning without a permit may lead to enforcement actions. Please do not hesitate to contact the BCAA office for clarification and assistance.

The burn day message is updated at 9 a.m. daily; no burn day will ever start prior to 9 a.m.

BCAA Office Agricultural Burn Line: 509-783-6570 or CLICK HERE

Burning

Burning, whether done indoors for heat or outdoors for recreation, creates unhealthful air pollution. Before burning, you need to know if burning is allowed and under what circumstances. By following the rules, you will keep smoke emissions to a minimum and avoid a potentially costly fine.

Agricultural Burning
In this section learn more about:

  • Agricultural Burning Best Manage Practices
  • Agricultural Burning Rules and permits

Outdoor Burning
In this section, learn more about:

  • Outdoor burning in Benton County – what’s allowed, what’s not
  • Residential, Land Clearing
  • Alternatives to burning
  • Health effects of burning – what you should know

Woodstoves and Fireplaces
In this section learn more about:

  • Key facts about wood heating
  • Air quality requirements related to wood burning
  • Limits on visible chimney smoke (opacity limits)

Outdoor Burning Fact Sheets

Agricultural Burning

The way agricultural burning is being managed is changing in the Northwest, with Washington State leading the way. This change is part of a comprehensive revision of the state’s air pollution laws that affects not just agriculture, but many other commercial, individual and governmental activities. The Clean Air Washington Act of 1991 (Chapter 70.94 RCW) states that those who contribute to air pollution will share the job of protecting air quality.

Agricultural burning is setting fire to:

  • Crop residue after harvest in order to reduce excess plant material and hinder pest infestations
  • Fruit tree debris from orchards after pruning or tree removal
  • Cereal grain (wheat, barley, corn and oats) stubble after harvest

All agricultural burning must follow Best Management Practices. Information on these BMP’s is found here.

Questions about burning

What is “agricultural burning” and how is it different from other forms of burning?

Agricultural burning is one of three kinds of outdoor burning. Outdoor burning also includes silvicultural (forest land) burning, and “open burning” — any other kind of burning outdoors in the open or in containers. As a farm management tool, an estimated 3, 000 to 5,000 agricultural fires are set each year in Washington, with up to 600,000 acres thought to be burned. Studies show that air quality levels can exceed federal health standards in areas affected by outdoor burning, especially from larger fires, or when dispersion of smoke by the wind is poor.

The Washington Clean Air Act (RCW 70.94) protects air quality in the state. Specifically, the RCW requires agricultural permits for commercial agricultural operations that burn natural vegetation as a farm management tool. The law also requires that the grower show the burning is reasonably necessary to carry out the enterprise. Agricultural burning meeting the criteria of the best management practices (identified by the agricultural burning practices and research task force) and where no practical alternative exists automatically satisfies this requirement. For further information, also see WAC 173-430.

Other forms of outdoor burning, such as that which is done at residences within the urban areas are considered to be waste-disposal, not as a management tool. This is primarily why many forms of outdoor burning are being phased out over time.

When is the next agricultural burn day?

Agricultural burn days are not called in advance. The BCAA staff checks for forecast air circulation conditions, which if good, mean that any smoke generated from burning should be diluted enough not to impact the general population. Because wind speed considerations are not taken into account when determining an agricultural burn day, it is the responsibility of the agricultural operation to determine if it is safe to burn or not.

Also, certain types of agricultural burns require a permit while others do not. Be sure that you understand whether or not you need a permit. Burning without a permit may lead to enforcement actions. Please do not hesitate to contact the BCAA office for clarification and assistance.

The burn day message is updated at 9 a.m. daily; no burn day will ever start prior to 9 a.m.

BCAA Office Agricultural Burn Line: 783-6570 or CLICK HERE

Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs)

Agricultural burning is allowed when it is reasonably necessary to carry out the enterprise. A farmer can show burning is reasonably necessary when it meets the criteria of the BMPs and no practical alternative exists. BMPs are one of the ways to demonstrate the need to burn. Growers not using BMPs must establish that their proposed burn is reasonably necessary and that no practical alternative is available. The burden of proof is on the grower, and the demonstration must satisfy the Department of Ecology and the local delegated permitting authority, if there is a local permitting authority.

Permits:

Many kinds of agricultural burning require permits. Information about permit applications, and the regulations upon which these programs are based is found here:

Do I need a permit to burn and how do I get one?

Agricultural Burning Permits and Forms

When is an agricultural burn permit not necessary?

Agricultural Burning Permits and Forms

What about burning?:

Other Agricultural Burning

  • on an commercial orchard
  • on a vineyard
  • on a grass seed farm
  • “flaming” or burning hop roots
  • for non-agricultural purposes (land-clearing)

The Department of Ecology’s page on Agricultural Burning is here.

Benton Clean Air Agency

Benton Clean Air Agency

Burn Decision & UGA Map



Determine whether or not you may burn at your location on residential burn days

Please enter your address to determine whether you are in an urban growth area of Benton County

Notices of Violation

If I am caught burning illegally, what will happen?

Enforcement actions usually begin once the BCAA receives complaints about illegal burning taking place. One of our inspectors is sent to the site to judge the severity of the violation and to document what is going on. The Inspector will try to locate the responsible individual or company and make them aware of the violations. At this point, the fire is required to be extinguished. After the Inspector finishes at the site, one of two things happens, either a warning letter or a Notice of Violation (NOV) is issued.

Warning letters are sent out if the violation was relatively minor or if the burner was uninformed. Once a warning letter is sent, the BCAA generally considers the case closed. If there are further violations after an individual or company has received a warning letter, the enforcement action may increase to an NOV, which is a much firmer form of enforcement.

The NOV is an official enforcement action and should be taken very seriously. Essentially the NOV is a ticket that informs the burner of the laws that were violated and of the Inspector’s findings at the site. The NOV starts the process of a formal case against the burner and cannot be appealed.Thirty days after the burner receives the NOV, the BCAA may assess a penalty in another formal document called a Notice of Penalty (NOP). According to Washington State law, penalties of up to $10,000 per violation per day may be assessed. For example, burning garbage in the city limits one a no-burn day with no mean to put the fire out equates to three violations or a maximum of $30,000 fine. Generally, though the BCAA does not fine to the greatest extent of the law and actual fines can be much lower.

I have received a “Notice of Violation”. What does it mean and what do I do now?

If you have received a Notice of Violation (NOV), it means that you have violated one or more air quality regulations. The NOV serves as official notice of the laws that were violated and of the Inspector’s report on the situation. It is important that you read the NOV very carefully. The NOV cannot be appealed. However, you may send written documentation to the BCAA indicating your understanding of the situation.

Thirty days after you receive your NOV, you may receive a Notice of Penalty (NOP). The NOP is the official notice of a fine being levied against you. You may or may not receive an NOP, as one is assigned on a case-by-case basis. The NOP is appealable and several options are presented in the NOP documentation. Again, you should read the documentation very carefully.

If you have any questions, please contact BCAA.

I have received a “Notice of Penalty”. What does it mean and what do I do now?

if you have received a Notice of Penalty (NOP), it means that thirty days have passed since you received the Notice of Violation (NOV). The NOP is the official notice of a fine being levied against you. The NOP is appealable and several options are presented in the NOP documentation. Again, you should read the documentation very carefully.

Option 1: Pay the fine in full. If you take option 1, your full payment is due within 30 days.

Option 2: Consent Order (CO). (Note: A consent order may or may not be available.) The CO represents a reduced penalty that may be paid in lieu of full payment if you do not commit a similar violation within the next year. By taking the CO, you forfeit the other avenues of mitigation and appeal. Once the paperwork has been filed and signed and the reduced penalty paid (within 30 days), the BCAA considered the case closed. However, if the conditions of the CO are not adhered to, for example a similar future violation within a year, the original penalty is reinstated and an additional NOV and NOP may be issued.

Option 3: Application for Relief of Penalty (ARP). If you feel that the penalty is unjustified and wish to contest the penalty this is the option to take. It is an opportunity to tell your recollection of the events that lead to the NOV. Note, however, that if a reduction of penalty is granted, it will not be less than that offered on the CO. The ARP must be filed within 15 days.

Option 4: Appeal to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board (PCHB).
This is your opportunity to have a day in court. The PCHB is a state level hearing board that will hear the your case. The PCHB has the power to overturn the penalty issued by the BCAA. However, if you choose this option, the PCHB will be considering the full amount of the penalty, not the amount listed in the CO. In most cases, the PCHB does not lower the penalty below that offered on the CO.

If you have any questions about your NOP or your legal options, please contact BCAA.

Also note that there are several timed deadlines that you should follow. Failure to meet specific deadlines nullifies certain avenues of appeal.

Fire Protection Districts

A link to the Fire Protection District Map is here.

City/Region Fire District Phone #
Benton City BCFPD #2 509-588-3212
Benton County (East) BCFPD #1 509-734-9100
Benton County (West) BCFPD #5 509-786-1723
Finley BCFPD #1 509-734-9100
Kennewick Fire Department 509-585-4230
Patterson BCFPD #6 509-875-2029
Plymouth BCFPD #6 509-875-2029
Prosser BCFPD #3 509-786-3873
Prosser (South) BCFPD #5 509-786-1723
Richland Fire Department 509-942-7550
West Richland BCFPD #4 509-967-2945


Smoke Opacity

Smoke Opacity

State law prohibits the generation of excessive chimney smoke. Except for brief periods during start-up and refueling, smoke is in violation when it obscures objects viewed through it by more than 20%.

Generation of smoke densities greater than 20% could result in fines from air pollution control officials. Stoves operated with dry wood and a generous air supply produce less smoke and more heat.

Woodstoves and Fireplaces

Clean Home Heating

Many people don’t think of the smoke from their wood stove or fireplace as air pollution. Some people even like the smell of wood smoke. But wood smoke is one of the main sources of air pollution in Washington.

Wood smoke contains fine particles, PM 2.5, which are associated with serious health effects, as the tiny size of these pollutants allows them to be easily inhaled, bypassing the immune system and proceeding deep into your lungs, where they can cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems, including premature death.

In winter, more than half of Washington’s fine particle air pollution comes from the homes being heated using wood. Wood stoves, fireplaces and other wood-burning devices put out hundreds of times more air pollution than other sources of heat such as natural gas, propane, oil or electricity.

Video on How to Select a New Stove for Home Heat

Video on How to Operate Your Wood Stove More Efficiently

The fire: Give it air!

The right amount of air gives you a hotter fire and more complete combustion. That translates to more heat from your wood and less smoke and pollution. Here are some cleaner burning tips:

  • Build small, hot fires. Don’t add too much fuel at one time.
  • Step outside and check the chimney or flue. If you can see smoke, your fire may need more air.
  • Read and follow the stove manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Don’t “bank” the stove full of wood and damper down the air supply. This wastes wood, produces much air pollution, promotes accumulation of creosote (which requires more frequent cleaning and can lead to chimney fires) and yields very little heat. Half-full is adequate; it provides enough air space for efficient combustion.
  • Don’t damper down too far. Allow enough air to reach the wood. This varies among models and kinds of stoves.
  • Make sure your stove is the right size for your home. Too large a stove will overheat your living space. You’ll want to damper down. This causes added pollution and wastes wood.
  • Don’t burn in moderate temperatures. You’ll want to damper down, which causes more pollution and wastes wood.
  • Don’t burn when air currents carry your smoke to your neighbor’s yard or house.
  • Only burn dry, seasoned firewood, never garbage. Burning garbage is illegal in the state of Washington and creates a greater health hazard.

The fuel: keep it dry!

Wood can seem dry and still contain plenty of water, up to 50 percent. The moisture in wood makes the fire give off more smoke. On the other hand, dry wood can provide up to 44 percent more heat. It is against state law to burn wood with more than 20 percent moisture content in fireplaces or wood stoves.

Two things work very well at making sure your wood is dry enough: time and cover. Whether you buy wood or harvest your own, follow these tips to get it fire-ready:

  • Split it. The wood will dry best and burn most efficiently if the pieces are three and one-half to six inches in diameter.
  • Cover it. Protect the wood from rain and weather. Stack it loosely-in layers of alternating directions- to allow plenty of air circulation. Store it at least six inches off the ground.
  • Give it a year. Wood that has been split, dried and stored under cover for at least one year usually meets the 20 percent moisture content requirement.

State law does not regulate the dryness of any wood sold. If the seller states that the wood is dry or seasoned, consider it a claim; make sure for yourself. You—and not the seller—are responsible for the dryness of the wood you put on your fire.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I burn in my woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue on a “no burn day”?

Yes. Woodstove, fireplace, and barbecue use is unrestricted at all times. The burn day decision does not apply to these devices. The only time when use is restricted is during a statewide air pollution episode, which occurs rarely.

Can I burn paper or garbage in my woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue?

Washington State law prohibits the burning of paper, except that which is necessary to start the fire. Burning large amounts of paper is potentially very dangerous as often large burning embers exit the chimney and can cause fires outside the home. The burning of garbage is strictly prohibited by State law.

How do I know if I am burning correctly in my woodstove or fireplace?

Your woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue must be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Also, the amount of smoke produces by these devices must be minimized. The smoke coming out of your chimney should be almost colorless and thin. Thick, white or black smoke indicates that your fire is not receiving enough air. Woodstoves, fireplaces, and barbecues should be used in such a way as to minimize the impact on neighbors. Here are some additional tips:

  • Burn only dry fuel. Moist wood gives off more smoke and may produce up to 44% less heat.
  • Ideally, burn wood that has been split and dried for one year.
  • Never burn painted, stained or treated wood, colored newsprint, plastic, cardboard, garbage, diapers or magazines.
  • Twenty minutes after starting your fire, check your chimney for smoke. If you see any smoke, it probably exceeds the legal limit. Increase air to the fire for cleaner burning.
  • Burn small hot fires and allow plenty of air to reach the fire. Avoid excessive dampening to extend the duration of the burn, see The Myth of Air-Starved Burning below.
  • Never allow the fire to smolder. Smoldering fires pollute, are inefficient and are a fire hazard.

One myth, which is perhaps the most damaging to air quality and potentially damaging to health and safety, is that there are benefits to starving a wood stove for adequate combustion of air. A fire starved for air is excessively smoky because of incomplete combustion and therefore produces more unburned particulates and gaseous air pollutants than a hot fire with adequate air. Poor combustion also promotes the buildup of creosote in chimneys posing a fire hazard. Carbon monoxide from incomplete combustion can also buildup inside houses posing a direct threat of death by asphyxiation.

This myth had its origin in the 1970’s energy crisis when the popularity of wood stoves increased. Many poorly designed stoves have been marketed that are not air-tight and otherwise have poor combustion air controls. Manufacturers may have recommended, or owners may have discovered, the technique of severely restricting air flow to compensate for poor design. In addition, marginal economics and high labor requirements of wood burning have made conservation of wood a priority, which makes reducing wood consumption yet another excuse for starving wood stove fires for air.

Burning of uncured wood with moisture contents over 20% compounds the problems of poor combustion from air-starved fires by promoting even greater production of air pollutants and creosote. Burning high moisture wood decreases the usable energy from the wood because heat from burning is diverted into evaporating the water rather than heating the air as desired.

What are some of health effects from breathing smoke from woodstove, fireplaces or barbecues?*

Breathing air containing wood smoke can:

  • reduce lung function, especially in children;
  • increase severity of existing lung disease such as asthma, emphysema, pneumonia and bronchitis;
  • aggravate heart disease;
  • increase susceptibility to lower respiratory diseases;
  • irritate eyes, lungs, throat and sinuses;
  • trigger headaches and allergies.

Those at greatest health risk from wood smoke include:

  • fetuses, infants and children;
  • people with lung, heart, circulatory diseases or allergies;
  • the elderly;
  • cigarette smokers and ex-smokers.

Contents of wood smoke:

There are many components to wood smoke that can cause risk to your health. These compounds include:

  • carbon monoxide, fatal in high concentrations;
  • formaldehyde, a possible cause of human cancer;
  • organic gases which may interfere with lung function;
  • nitrogen oxides, linked to hardening of the arteries;
  • tiny smoke particles that lodge in the lungs causing structural damage. These tiny particles, or PM10, are less than 10 microns wide, or about 1/7 the diameter of a human hair.

What if my neighbor’s woodstove or fireplace is producing a strong, foul odor?

The primary cause of foul odors from woodstoves and fireplaces is the burning of green wood. Because green wood contains so much water, it does not burn efficiently and essentially just smolders. Smoldering fires are not hot enough to destroy the bulk of the odors. The solution to such a problem is to burn well-seasoned, dry wood in a hot fire, with lots of air. If you are bothered by a neighbor’s smoke, you should contact the BCAA office or file a complaint

What are the restrictions on buying or selling a used woodstove or fireplace in Benton County?

Since July 1, 1992, only EPA certified wood stoves and fireplace inserts may be legally sold or installed in Washington. There should be a metal tag permanently affixed to the device that will indicate EPA certification. According to Washington State law and BCAA Regulation 1, it is illegal to advertise to sell, offer to sell, sell, bargain, exchange, or give away an uninstalled used uncertified fireplace or woodstove. If you have any questions, please contact the BCAA.

A list of EPA certified woodstoves can be found at the Washington State Department of Ecology Air Program website

Alternatives to Outdoor Burning

Non-Burning Alternatives are available and many residents choose to chip or compost this material to use in their yard and garden. Others may haul their “clean green” to a local recycling transfer station or to a private collection company.

Instead of burning your yard debris, why not try an alternative. The following is a list of several that are available.

Composting

Want bigger, brighter, fuller flowers and county-fair-sized vegetables? Try composting your garden and yard debris. Nothing beats adding compost for soil enrichment. And if you think composting is just a fad of the ’90s, here’s and interesting fact: a Roman statesman named Marcus Cato introduced composting as a way to build up the soil of ancient Rome more that 2,000 years ago. In-the-know gardeners will tell you that nothing makes their gardens grow like a great homemade compost. Creating a balance of wet, “green” materials (such as grass clippings, certain food scraps, and various kinds of manure and dry, “brown” materials (the dry leaves and woody materials that you might previously burned!) creates the perfect compost. The “browns” are really carbon-rich materials and the “greens” are nitrogen-rich products that work together with microbes to build a soil-enriching compost for your garden. Need some more convincing reasons to compost?

Here’s a list of some of the great benefits of composting:

  • Composting is a perfect alternative to open (backyard) burning
  • Composting saves space in the landfill
  • Composing enriches the soil and turns out better plants and vegetables
  • Composting is convenient. Just think, the time and energy you now expend to bag and haul all your garden debris to the trash can, landfill, or transfer station can be turned into a useful product.
  • Composting saves money (less money spent on leaf bags, fertilizers, mulch, bagged compost, peat moss, or other soil enhancements).

For more information on backyard composting, call the Washington State University Cooperative Extension or the Benton County Solid Waste Department (see Resources below) or check out the BCAA Composting flier by clicking the burning tab at the top of the page and then scrolling to the bottom.

Make Your Own Mulch

Mulch is a protective covering for your plants, shrubs, and trees that truly benefits your garden. When it’s spread in garden beds or under shrubs and trees, mulch reduces evaporation, maintains even soil temperature, prevent erosion, controls weeds, and enriches the soil. You can make your own mulch by chipping “brown: or carbon-rich yard debris. Call the Washington State Cooperative Extension or the Benton County Solid Waste Department (see Resources below).

You can find out more information by viewing the BCAA Mulching flier by clicking the burning tab at the top of the page and then scrolling to the bottom.

Use a Mulching Mover for a Healthy Lawn

If you leave “mulched” grass on your lawn instead of burning the clippings, you’re doing your grass, yourself, and the environment a favor. Don’t worry, because this finely chopped grass has a temporary mulching effect but rapidly decomposes to return valuable nutrients to the soil. Together these benefits of a mulching mower help your lawn hold water and reduce fertilizer costs. Over time, the soils in our hot, dry climate become healthier simply from the added organic matter. Perhaps the best benefit is that you spend less time handling grass clippings. You can buy a mulching mower for the same cost as comparable non-mulching mowers and some models even have a mulch/no mulch/bagging option.

Chipping

Large quantities of woody vegetative material from yards, gardens, other landscaping features, or land- clearing can be turned into a useful product. The resulting wood chips can be used for a number of purposes. For more information, check out the BCAA Chipping flier by clicking the burning tab at the top of the page and then scrolling to the bottom.

Landscape Management

In our region, most people prefer irrigated lawns with trees, shrubs and grass for the benefits they provide: cooling, fire protection, and aesthetic environment. If you can incorporate some of the following ideas into your landscaping, you may lessen your yard debris:

Reduce or limit the number of trees and shrubs you plant

  • Plant varieties that minimize debris
  • Plant low-residue plant and native varieties that thrive in our grow zone
  • Consider planting a xeriscape – an urban landscape that decreases yard waste and conserves water as well. In xeriscapes, native or arid-zone adapted plants produce minimum residue and rely on natural rainfall only.

Use the Landfill

Disposing of your yard debris in a landfill is also an alternative to burning. This is especially true for people who can’t take advantage of composting, making mulch, mulching mowers, or installing low-residue landscaping. In other parts of the state, landfill space is at a premium, but in our region, landfill space is not currently a concern. However, disposing as recyclable yard debris in the landfill is an option that should be used only as necessary as a substitute for open burning.

Resources

Washington State University Cooperative Extension
Master Gardener Program
Tri-Cities (509) 735-3551
Prosser (509) 786-2226

Benton County Solid Waste Department
Tri-Cities (509)783-1310 ext 5682
Prosser (509)786-5611

City of Richland
Environmental Education Coordinator
505 Swift Blvd, Richland, WA 99352
(509) 942-7730

City of Kennewick
Solid Waste Environmental Division
210 W 6th Ave, Kennewick, WA 99336
(509) 585-4317

Burning Detail Questions

... tumbleweeds blown on to my property?

Tumbleweeds that have been blown on to your property can be burned at any time, regardless of the burn day and regardless of whether you are inside or outside the Urban Growth Area (UGA). However, only the tumbleweeds can be burned, any other vegetative material to be burned is subject to the rules specific to your location.

... tumbleweeds that are growing on my property?

If the tumbleweeds are growing on your property, you cannot burn them in place.

If tumbleweeds are actually growing on your property, you must obtain a special burn permit in order to burn the tumblewweds in-place. Be aware that therer is a fee charged for a special burn permit. You may want to consider an alternative to burning such as mulching, mowing, or composting. However, you may also want to try to control the weeds before they become a problem by mowing or using a commercial herbicide. For more information you can download a flyer on tumbleweed burning here (PDF).

... in a woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue?

At the present time, in Benton County, there are no restrictions on when you can use your woodstove, barbecue, or fireplace. However, you must burn properly to minimize the impact of smoke on your neighbors.

... for recreation (campfire or bonfire)?

As of April 13, 2000, the definition and rules about recreational fires have changed. Recreational fire means [by definition] cooking fires, campfires, and bonfires using charcoal or firewood that occur in designated areas or on private property for cooking or pleasure purposes (WAC 173-425-030). Fires used for debris disposal are not considered recreational fires. For more information you can download a flyer on recreational fires here (PDF).

Inside the UGA: Recreational fires that are larger than three feet in diameter and two feet high require a permit. Permit conditions may limit the date and time burning is allowed. Recreational fires smaller than 3’x2’ are allowed at any time, regardless of the “burn day”, and do not require a permit.

Outside the UGA: Recreational fires are allowed at any time and do not require a permit.

... in a burn barrel?

As of April 13, 2000, the use of the traditional metal burn barrel is illegal throughout the State. This was done primarily to make the state rule consistent with the Uniform Fire Code.

If you feel that you must use a system similar to the burn barrel, waste disposal is still allowed in an outdoor burning device. This device must be constructed of concrete or masonry with a completely enclosed combustion chamber and a permanently attached iron spark arrester (max 1/2 inch holes). The device can only be used to dispose of natural vegetative debris. Paper, garbage, wood products, and other prohibited materials are illegal to burn.

... construction debris on my property?

The burning of construction debris is prohibited by state law, WAC 173-425-050(2), and by BCAA Regulation 1 Article 5 Section 5.02E. Because of the significant amount of prohibited materials found in construction fires of the past, BCAA Regulation 1 strictly prohibits any fire from occurring on a construction site. This includes the burning of vegetative debris and the burning of tumbleweeds. Burning illegally on a construction site will likely result in a violation and fine.

... on my small/hobby orchard?

Small hobby farms and small orchards are also subject to burning rules and regulations. If the farm or orchard sells what it produces and files a Schedule F with its income taxes, the farm is considered to be a commercial operation and is subject to the agricultural burning rules. All other farms and orchards are considered to be non-commercial. As with residential burning of yard waste, the location of the property is important.

Because outdoor burning have been substantially banned within the UGA, there are no “burn days” per se that farms and orchards may use for waste disposal. The only option available for farms and orchards within the UGA is to apply for a Special Burning Permit. Please contact us for information and details.

Outside the UGA, a farm or orchard can burn its dry, natural vegetation as long as there is a burn day. Burn day status is available by calling 946-4489. However, the farm cannot clear fields and steps must be taken to minimize the impact of the smoke on neighbors. Failure to comply with these additional restrictions could result in enforcement action.

If there are any questions concerning burning on hobby farms and orchards, please contact us.

... on a lot or area that is a fire hazard?

Brush and weeds on a piece of property can be considered a fire hazard. However, you will need to have your local fire department come to your property and declare it a fire hazard. In addition, the fire department must agree that burning the material would be the safest way to eliminate the hazard; in most cases alternatives, such as mowing, are equally effective. If the fire department determines that the fire hazard would be reduced by burning, then the BCAA will issue a permit to burn the material.

Frequently Asked Questions about Outdoor Burning

What are some alternatives to burning?

Information on Alternatives to Burning is here.

My residence is inside the Urban Growth Area (UGA) of Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Prosser, or Benton City, can I burn?

The Washington Administrative Code (WAC) required that residential and land clearing burning in urban growth areas of cities larger than 5,000 be banned as of January 1, 2001. For cities smaller than 5,000, such as Benton City, outdoor burning was allowed until January 1, 2004. However, as of January 1, burning is now banned in the UGA of Benton City as well. Recent changes in the State law have further defined what types of burning can or cannot take place within the urban growth areas. Based on these changes, the following is a summary list of the applicable rules for burning in the urban growth areas of Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Prosser, and Benton City.

If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the Urban Growth Area (UGA), you may search your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304 .

PROHIBITED

  • burning yard debris (leaves, branches, etc.) at your property
  • transferring material from Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Prosser, or Benton City to outside the UGA for the purpose of burning the material
  • the use of burn barrels
  • burning for land-clearing purposes
  • burning tumbleweeds that are growing on your property
  • burning garbage, dead animals, asphalt, petroleum products, paints, rubber products, plastics, paper (other than what is necessary to start the fire), cardboard, treated wood, construction debris, metal, or any substance (other than natural vegetation) which when burned releases toxic emissions, dense smoke, or odors.” (WAC 173-425-050(2))

ALLOWED WITH A PERMIT

  • burning a recreational fire greater than 3 feet in diameter.

ALLOWED WITHOUT A PERMIT

  • burning a recreational fire that is less than 3 feet in diameter
  • burning tumbleweeds that blew on to your property

Can I burn? My residence is outside the Urban Growth Area.

If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the UGA, you may search your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304.

If you have confirmed that your residence is outside of the urban growth area, you may burn under the residential burning rules.

In 1995, the Washington State legislature changed some of the burning rules and how they were applied in different parts of the State. For those residents outside of the UGA, the following rules apply:

PROHIBITED

  • burning garbage, dead animals, asphalt, petroleum products, paints, rubber products, plastics, paper (other than what is necessary to start the fire), cardboard, treated wood, construction debris, metal, or any substance (other than natural vegetation) which when burned releases toxic emissions, dense smoke, or odors.” (WAC 173-425-050(2))

PROHIBITED AS OF JAN 1, 2001

  • the use of burn barrels

ALLOWED ON A BURN DAY You must have a burn day before you may burn. The burn message, updated by 9 AM, is 509-783-6198.

  • Only material generated at your residence can be burned.
  • Only dry, natural vegetation can be burned. Burning paper (other than enough to start fire), plastic, lumber, building debris, and garbage is strictly prohibited.
  • Someone must be in attendance of the fire at all times and be able to put out the fire if necessary.
  • No fires are allowed within 50 feet of any flammable structure.
  • The pile size is limited to 4 ft by 4 ft by 3 ft high.
  • Only one pile can be burned at a time. Continually feeding material into one fire is OK.
  • The fire must be extinguished if it creates a nuisance.
  • You can only burn at your residential property or the property owner’s permission must be obtained prior to burning.
  • Your fire must be completely extinguished by the end of the burn day.

ALLOWED WITH A PERMIT

  • burning for weed abatement (including tumbleweeds growing on your property)
  • burning a recreational fire greater than 3 feet in diameter.

What is an “Urban Growth Area” and how do I know if my residence is inside or outside?

The applicable open burning regulations depend upon where the property is located with respect to the “Urban Growth Area”, or UGA. The urban growth area (UGA) is defined by a line that the incorporated cities (Richland, Kennewick, West Richland, Benton City, and Prosser) expect to grow into during the next 20 years. The UGA includes all the city limits, the “islands” of County within the cities, and some parts of County land immediately adjacent to the city limits. Those properties that lie inside of this boundary have different burning rules than those properties lying outside the boundary. If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the UGA, you may search for your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304.

Urban Growth Area Maps are here.

I can’t meet some or all of the burn rules, is there another way I can burn legally?

Many of the burn rules are, in many cases, restrictive by design. By creating these rules, the State can reduce the amount of burning taking place in the urban areas, reducing both air pollution and fire risk. However, there are circumstances where the BCAA can allow an individual or company to burn outside of these rules.

A Special Burn Permit may be issued under specific circumstances. The permit has an associated fee that is assessed in two parts. First, there is a $75 non-refundable application fee that must accompany the written application. This allows the BCAA Inspector to process the application and if necessary, inspect the materials to be burned prior to burning. The application can either be accepted or rejected at this point. If accepted, there is an additional charge of no more than $8.50 per cubic yard of material to be burned. The fees must be paid within 30 days of the permit being issued. A permit is issued that is specific to the applicant’s type of burning. The permit conditions often will allow more “burn days” than would be available under the urban are spring and fall burn windows.

If you would like to apply for a Special Burn Permit, the application is Special Burn Permit Request along with the fee, to the BCAA. If you have any questions, please contact us.

How does the BCAA determine whether or not to allow a “burn day”?

Information on how the daily burn decision is made is here.

“What about burning” answers to these questions are found here:*

  • tumbleweeds blown on to my property?
  • tumbleweeds that are growing on my property?
  • in a woodstove, barbecue, or fireplace?
  • for recreation (campfire or bonfire)?
  • in a burn barrel?
  • construction debris on my property?
  • on my small/hobby orchard?
  • on a lot or area that is a fire hazard?

How do I build a good, hot fire, that does not produce a lot of smoke? The Boy Scouts of America recommend when burning a fire:

1. Use dry, seasoned wood. Do not burn material that has just been cut or has been soaked by moisture. 2. Use a mixture of material of different sizes and thickness. Start with small tinder: like dry moss or really dry pine needles. Next, put kindling into the fire. Kindling are small pieces of wood no larger than the width of one of your fingers. Arrange your third and last material, the “fuel” (larger material), in a teepee type style. Put a break in the pattern, like a door to the teepee, facing into the wind. This break allows the breeze to blow into the fire and creates a hotter, more efficient fire. 3. Light your fire with matches, no fuel (gasoline, lighter fluid, etc.) should be necessary, through the door of the teepee. Start by lighting the tinder, the tinder will then catch the remaining material on fire. Add material as the fire burns hot and quickly.

My property is zoned agriculture. Do I follow the open burning rules or the agricultural burning rules?

State law views residential burning and agricultural burning as two separate issues, both with associated laws. In order to qualify an agricultural burn permit you must show evidence of agricultural activity taking place, usually in the form of supplying a copy of the IRS form Schedule F: Profit and Loss from Farming. Only those operations with proof of an agricultural operation will be issued an agricultural burn permit. The zoning regulations are local regulations and do not apply to burning applications. Areas which are zoned agriculture, but do not supply this proof, must comply with the general rule burn rules and the “burn days”.

Urban Growth Area Information

The applicable open burning regulations depend upon where the property is located with respect to the “Urban Growth Area”, or UGA. The urban growth area (UGA) is defined by a line that the incorporated cities (Richland, Kennewick, West Richland, Benton City, and Prosser) expect to grow into during the next 20 years. The UGA includes all the city limits, the “islands” of County within the cities, and some parts of County land immediately adjacent to the city limits. Those properties that lie inside of this boundary have different burning rules than those properties lying outside the boundary. If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the UGA, you can search your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304.

Regulations

Ecology’s rule on Outdoor Burning is here.

Daily Burn Decision

This information applies only to residents that live outside of the urban growth area. If you are inside the city limits of Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Benton City, or Prosser you are never allowed to burn yard debris at your residence. Also please note, that just because your property is outside of city limits, does not mean that you are also outside the urban growth area. To search whether your address is within an urban growth area, click here. You may also call the Benton County Planning Dept. or Benton Clean Air Agency for help determining whether you are inside or outside the urban growth area.

The Residential and Agricultural burn line numbers can be found in the top left corner of the page. Please call to find out the current conditions and restrictions. The daily burn decision is also available here.

The burn decision is made every morning prior to 9:00 am and is based on that day’s forecasted meteorological conditions. If necessary, the burn lines are updated to reflect the status of the burn decision. Should conditions unexpectedly change, the burn line may be updated as needed.

When making the burn decision, the BCAA utilizes information from the National Weather Service and a modeling forecast produced by the University of WA, in cooperation with the Dept of Ecology. This modeling forecast is called the “MM5” and gives a projected forecast of the atmospheric dispersion conditions, throughout the state, at different times throughout the day.

These tools are used uniformly throughout most of the state in making the daily agricultural burn decision. Forecasted wind speeds are not a primary factor in determining agricultural burn days in Benton County. Fire safety is the responsibility of the farmers. Wind warnings are given on the burn day message for surface wind speeds forecasted above 15 mph.

The residential burn decision is based on the same information used to make the agricultural burn decision. However, in consideration for fire safety and at the request of our local fire departments, wind speed is taken into consideration. When the surface wind speeds from the National Weather Service office in Pendleton, OR for the Columbia Basin are forecast to exceed 20 mph, residential burning will not be allowed. For forecasted surface wind speeds between 15 and 20 mph, a wind warning is issued.

For outdoor burning, the Benton Clean Air Agency allows burning generally only when dispersion conditions are forecasted to be good.

Bright sunny days are frequently not good smoke dispersion days and are characterized by high pressure systems. The latter characteristically has descending air masses, low mixing level ceilings, and little horizontal air movement. Known in meteorology as stable air masses, all the factors associated with these air masses combine to limit the both the volume and vertical mixing of near-surface air. Air pollutants emitted into the air under these conditions from any source, one of which may be outdoor burning, are effectively trapped and do not disperse by vertical mixing and horizontal transport at higher altitudes.

In contrast, low pressure weather systems are characterized by unstable air that is rising and frequently turbulent. Both vertical mixing with high elevation mixing levels and horizontal air movement very effectively dilute and disperse air pollutants emitted into the air.

Unfortunately, these meteorologically unstable air masses frequently have high wind speeds and gusty wind plus precipitation. High gusty wind conditions pose a fire safety hazard.

Outdoor Burning

Residential Burning Program

Under the residential burning program, only residents located outside of the Urban Growth Area are allowed to burn. Residents outside the UGA must still call the residential burn line to find out whether or not it is a burn day. The phone number is located at the top of the page, and is updated on a daily basis. You may also find the burn decision, here.

To search whether your address is within an Urban Growth Area of Benton County, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page.

If it is a burn day, and you are located outside of the UGA, the following burning rules apply:

  • Only dry natural vegetation may be burned
  • Only one pile at a time may be burned, and the pile must be extinguished before ingniting another
  • The pile must be no larger than 4 feet by 4 feet by 3 feet tall
  • The fire must be located 50 feet from all flamable structures
  • You must be in attendance of the fire at all times
  • You must not create a nuisance with the smoke from your fire
  • The use of burn barrels is prohibited

Failure to adhere to these rules may result in the issuance of a violation and/or fine.

Residents Inside The Urban Growth Area

Residents located inside the Urban Growth Area are not allowed to burn for disposal purposes.

The following types of burning are allowed inside the Urban Growth Area:

1. Burning of tumbleweeds that have blown on to your property using the following guidelines:
- You must call the burn line to see if tumbleweed burning has been banned due to high winds or fire safety
- You must not create a nuisance with the smoke
- You must be in attendance of the fire at all times
- The use of burn barrels is prohibited

2. Recreational Fires using the following guidelines:
- The fire must not be larger than 3 feet by 3 feet by 2 feet tall
- You must be in attendance at all times
- Only dry, seasoned firewood may be used; The fire cannot be used for disposal purposes
- The fire must be 50 feet from all flammable structures
- You must not create a nuisnace with the smoke
- The use of burn barrels is prohibited

3. Barbeques

4. Woodstoves

Failure to adhere to the guidelines listed above may result in a violation and/or fine.

Fees

A. An application fee for an agricultural burning permit shall be due and payable at the time of submittal of the application.

B. Upon approval of any agricultural burning permit application, the BCAA shall charge a fee at a maximum fee level as set by statute.

C. Minimum and variable fee levels are as follows:

  • Thirty seven dollars and fifty cents ($37.50) per calendar year per field burn based on burning up to ten acres or equivalent; Each additional acre is $3.75 per acre.
  • Eighty dollars ($80.00) for pile burning per calendar year per agricultural operation based on burning debris from up to 80 tons or equivalent; Each additional ton is $1.00 per ton.

The agricultural burning practices and research task force may set acreage equivalents, for non-field style agricultural burning practices, based on the amount of emissions relative to typical field burning emissions. Any acreage equivalents, established by rule, shall be used in determining fees. For agricultural burning conducted by irrigation or drainage districts, each mile of ditch (including banks) burned is calculated on an equivalent acreage basis.

For a complete breakdown of the fee schedule, click here.

Agricultural Burning Permits and Forms

Most commercial burning of agricultural fields or for agricultural purposes requires a permit from the BCAA.

Agricultural Permit is required for ..

  • Orchard or vineyard takeout
  • Vineyard prunings
  • Disease or weed control
  • Residue removal
  • Research/demonstration project
  • Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) or renovation purposes
  • “Flaming” of hop roots

Agricultural Permit is not required* for ..

  • Orchard prunings
  • Natural vegetation along fencelines, irrigation canals, or drainage ditches.
  • Tumbleweeds

*NOTE: Conversion of agricultural property to commercial or residential use, such as removal of an orchard to put in a housing development is not considered agricultural burning and is not allowed with an agricultural burn permit.

Regardless of whether the agricultural burn requires a permit, you must contact your local fire department and inform them prior to burning.

Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs)

Agricultural burning is allowed when it is reasonably necessary to carry out the enterprise. A farmer can show burning is reasonably necessary when it meets the criteria of the BMPs and no practical alternative exists. BMPs are one of the ways to demonstrate the need to burn. Growers not using BMPs must establish that their proposed burn is reasonably necessary and that no practical alternative is available. The burden of proof is on the grower, and the demonstration must satisfy the Department of Ecology and the local delegated permitting authority, if there is a local permitting authority.

Current BMP Information:

  • Agricultural Burning Best Management Practices – click here

Permit Applications

Before an agricultural burn permit is issued, an application must be submitted and processed. You will need both the permit application and a copy of one of the Best Management Guidelines documents:

The following steps describe the application procedure:

  • Fill out the application. Be specific and COMPLETE. Refer to the Best Management Practices Guidance document as necessary. Incomplete applications will not be processed.
  • Calculate the total acres/tons and fee In the space provided, write the number of acres/tons from each of the proposed burns. Add together the acres/tons of each proposed burn, this is the number of acres/tons proposed.
  • Make checks payable to BCAA. Please do not send cash.
  • Sign and date the applicant statement portion.
  • Send the application and check for the permit fee to:

Benton Clean Air Agency
526 S. Steptoe St.
Kennewick, WA 99336

Receiving Your Permit

The BCAA will act on a complete application within seven (7) days and either send to you a permit or written reason why the application has been denied. If an incomplete application is submitted, it will be returned along with the fee.

Agricultural Burning Regulations

There are three sources of agricultural burning regulations which pertain to the residents of Benton County:

What About Burning ...

… on an orchard?

Burning on an orchard is considered agricultural burning and is subject to WAC 173-430. In order to burn you must have filed a Schedule F (Profit and Loss from Farming) form with the IRS. If you have not, you may not burn for agricultural purposes and may be cited for burning in your orchard.

The same laws that govern other types of agricultural burning also regulate burning on an orchard. There are, however, some differences relating to the reasons why a particular burn is being conducted. It is important that the orchardist is well informed prior to burning on orchard lands in order to lessen the chances for enforcement action.

There are three types of burning that can take place on an orchard, each with differing requirements.

  • Crop Rotation: Tree removal with intent to replace with different tree “crop”

Orchardists who plan to change crops by removing existing trees and replacing with another tree type or a different agricultural product, will need to apply for an Agricultural Burn Permit. Burning the “old” trees are subject to the conditions on the permit and burning is limited to agricultural “burn days”.

  • Crop Removal: Tree removal with intent to change land use, for example using the land for a housing development

In many cases, orchards are converted to some other land use, such as a housing development. Since the land will no longer be used for agricultural purposes the trees that are removed cannot be burned under an Agricultural Burning Permit. However, a Special Burn Permit can be used for this purpose. The Special Burn Permit carries a non-refundable $50 application fee plus an additional fee based upon the total volume of material to be burned (maximum $8.50 per cubic yard). A Special Burn Permit application can be downloaded (PDF).

  • Orchard prunings

A permit is not needed to burn tree prunings. Prunings can be burned at any time regardless of the agricultural “burn day”. However, care must be taken so that the smoke does not impact neighboring residents. By causing impact on residents, the fire may need to be extinguished and depending upon circumstances, possible BCAA enforcement action may apply.

... on a vineyard?

After much deliberation with the WSU Cooperative Extension and with several vinyardists, it was established that vineyard prunings do not fall into the same category as orchard prunings. As such, any burning on a vineyard requires an Agricultural Burning Permit and needs to follow the general agricultural burn rules.

... on a grass seed farm?

Most grass-seed field burning in Washington State has been ended by the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology). Ecology has officially certified alternatives to grass seed field burning that are practical and reasonably available. Ecology has also determined that mechanical residue management is a viable and reasonable available alternative in most cases. Only under limited specific situations may some burning of grass-seed fields take place. For more information contact the BCAA Inspector Rob Rodger , or go to the Department of Ecology Air Program.

... “flaming” or burning hop roots?

The BCAA and the Department of Ecology considers “flaming” and the burning of hop roots to be agricultural burning. As such, this type of burning requires an Agricultural Burning permit and need to follow the general agricultural burn rules.

... for non-agricultural purposes (land-clearing)?

An agricultural burn permit can only be used in circumstances that directly affect the propagation of field crops. An example would be the burning or wheat stubble, or the removal of an orchard to plant new fruit trees. However, if agricultural purposes will be ceased on a property and the land is to be cleared for another purpose, such as a housing development, an agricultural burning permit cannot be used for this purpose and a special burn permit is required. A Special Burn permit carries a non-refundable $50 application fee plus a negotiable $8.50 per cubic yard of to-be-burned material fee. An application for a Special Burn Permit can be downloaded (PDF).

Special Burn Permit Request

Agricultural Burning Regulations

  • Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 173-430 click here

Agricultural Daily Burn Decision

When is the next burn day?

Agricultural Burn Day

Burn days are not called in advance. BCAA staff checks for forecasted air dispersion conditions, which if they meet the critieria, mean that any smoke generated from burning should be diluted enough not to impact the general population. Wind speeds are also taken into consideration when making the daily decision. If strong winds are forcasted, incidental burning may also not be allowed in addition to permitted burning.

Also, most types of agricultural burns require a permit, others do not. Be sure that you understand whether or not you need a permit. Burning without a permit may lead to enforcement actions. Please do not hesitate to contact the BCAA office for clarification and assistance.

The burn day message is updated at 9 a.m. daily; no burn day will ever start prior to 9 a.m.

BCAA Office Agricultural Burn Line: 509-783-6570 or CLICK HERE

Burning

Burning, whether done indoors for heat or outdoors for recreation, creates unhealthful air pollution. Before burning, you need to know if burning is allowed and under what circumstances. By following the rules, you will keep smoke emissions to a minimum and avoid a potentially costly fine.

Agricultural Burning
In this section learn more about:

  • Agricultural Burning Best Manage Practices
  • Agricultural Burning Rules and permits

Outdoor Burning
In this section, learn more about:

  • Outdoor burning in Benton County – what’s allowed, what’s not
  • Residential, Land Clearing
  • Alternatives to burning
  • Health effects of burning – what you should know

Woodstoves and Fireplaces
In this section learn more about:

  • Key facts about wood heating
  • Air quality requirements related to wood burning
  • Limits on visible chimney smoke (opacity limits)

Outdoor Burning Fact Sheets

Agricultural Burning

The way agricultural burning is being managed is changing in the Northwest, with Washington State leading the way. This change is part of a comprehensive revision of the state’s air pollution laws that affects not just agriculture, but many other commercial, individual and governmental activities. The Clean Air Washington Act of 1991 (Chapter 70.94 RCW) states that those who contribute to air pollution will share the job of protecting air quality.

Agricultural burning is setting fire to:

  • Crop residue after harvest in order to reduce excess plant material and hinder pest infestations
  • Fruit tree debris from orchards after pruning or tree removal
  • Cereal grain (wheat, barley, corn and oats) stubble after harvest

All agricultural burning must follow Best Management Practices. Information on these BMP’s is found here.

Questions about burning

What is “agricultural burning” and how is it different from other forms of burning?

Agricultural burning is one of three kinds of outdoor burning. Outdoor burning also includes silvicultural (forest land) burning, and “open burning” — any other kind of burning outdoors in the open or in containers. As a farm management tool, an estimated 3, 000 to 5,000 agricultural fires are set each year in Washington, with up to 600,000 acres thought to be burned. Studies show that air quality levels can exceed federal health standards in areas affected by outdoor burning, especially from larger fires, or when dispersion of smoke by the wind is poor.

The Washington Clean Air Act (RCW 70.94) protects air quality in the state. Specifically, the RCW requires agricultural permits for commercial agricultural operations that burn natural vegetation as a farm management tool. The law also requires that the grower show the burning is reasonably necessary to carry out the enterprise. Agricultural burning meeting the criteria of the best management practices (identified by the agricultural burning practices and research task force) and where no practical alternative exists automatically satisfies this requirement. For further information, also see WAC 173-430.

Other forms of outdoor burning, such as that which is done at residences within the urban areas are considered to be waste-disposal, not as a management tool. This is primarily why many forms of outdoor burning are being phased out over time.

When is the next agricultural burn day?

Agricultural burn days are not called in advance. The BCAA staff checks for forecast air circulation conditions, which if good, mean that any smoke generated from burning should be diluted enough not to impact the general population. Because wind speed considerations are not taken into account when determining an agricultural burn day, it is the responsibility of the agricultural operation to determine if it is safe to burn or not.

Also, certain types of agricultural burns require a permit while others do not. Be sure that you understand whether or not you need a permit. Burning without a permit may lead to enforcement actions. Please do not hesitate to contact the BCAA office for clarification and assistance.

The burn day message is updated at 9 a.m. daily; no burn day will ever start prior to 9 a.m.

BCAA Office Agricultural Burn Line: 783-6570 or CLICK HERE

Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs)

Agricultural burning is allowed when it is reasonably necessary to carry out the enterprise. A farmer can show burning is reasonably necessary when it meets the criteria of the BMPs and no practical alternative exists. BMPs are one of the ways to demonstrate the need to burn. Growers not using BMPs must establish that their proposed burn is reasonably necessary and that no practical alternative is available. The burden of proof is on the grower, and the demonstration must satisfy the Department of Ecology and the local delegated permitting authority, if there is a local permitting authority.

Permits:

Many kinds of agricultural burning require permits. Information about permit applications, and the regulations upon which these programs are based is found here:

Do I need a permit to burn and how do I get one?

Agricultural Burning Permits and Forms

When is an agricultural burn permit not necessary?

Agricultural Burning Permits and Forms

What about burning?:

Other Agricultural Burning

  • on an commercial orchard
  • on a vineyard
  • on a grass seed farm
  • “flaming” or burning hop roots
  • for non-agricultural purposes (land-clearing)

The Department of Ecology’s page on Agricultural Burning is here.

Benton Clean Air Agency

Benton Clean Air Agency

Burn Decision & UGA Map



Determine whether or not you may burn at your location on residential burn days

Please enter your address to determine whether you are in an urban growth area of Benton County

Notices of Violation

If I am caught burning illegally, what will happen?

Enforcement actions usually begin once the BCAA receives complaints about illegal burning taking place. One of our inspectors is sent to the site to judge the severity of the violation and to document what is going on. The Inspector will try to locate the responsible individual or company and make them aware of the violations. At this point, the fire is required to be extinguished. After the Inspector finishes at the site, one of two things happens, either a warning letter or a Notice of Violation (NOV) is issued.

Warning letters are sent out if the violation was relatively minor or if the burner was uninformed. Once a warning letter is sent, the BCAA generally considers the case closed. If there are further violations after an individual or company has received a warning letter, the enforcement action may increase to an NOV, which is a much firmer form of enforcement.

The NOV is an official enforcement action and should be taken very seriously. Essentially the NOV is a ticket that informs the burner of the laws that were violated and of the Inspector’s findings at the site. The NOV starts the process of a formal case against the burner and cannot be appealed.Thirty days after the burner receives the NOV, the BCAA may assess a penalty in another formal document called a Notice of Penalty (NOP). According to Washington State law, penalties of up to $10,000 per violation per day may be assessed. For example, burning garbage in the city limits one a no-burn day with no mean to put the fire out equates to three violations or a maximum of $30,000 fine. Generally, though the BCAA does not fine to the greatest extent of the law and actual fines can be much lower.

I have received a “Notice of Violation”. What does it mean and what do I do now?

If you have received a Notice of Violation (NOV), it means that you have violated one or more air quality regulations. The NOV serves as official notice of the laws that were violated and of the Inspector’s report on the situation. It is important that you read the NOV very carefully. The NOV cannot be appealed. However, you may send written documentation to the BCAA indicating your understanding of the situation.

Thirty days after you receive your NOV, you may receive a Notice of Penalty (NOP). The NOP is the official notice of a fine being levied against you. You may or may not receive an NOP, as one is assigned on a case-by-case basis. The NOP is appealable and several options are presented in the NOP documentation. Again, you should read the documentation very carefully.

If you have any questions, please contact BCAA.

I have received a “Notice of Penalty”. What does it mean and what do I do now?

if you have received a Notice of Penalty (NOP), it means that thirty days have passed since you received the Notice of Violation (NOV). The NOP is the official notice of a fine being levied against you. The NOP is appealable and several options are presented in the NOP documentation. Again, you should read the documentation very carefully.

Option 1: Pay the fine in full. If you take option 1, your full payment is due within 30 days.

Option 2: Consent Order (CO). (Note: A consent order may or may not be available.) The CO represents a reduced penalty that may be paid in lieu of full payment if you do not commit a similar violation within the next year. By taking the CO, you forfeit the other avenues of mitigation and appeal. Once the paperwork has been filed and signed and the reduced penalty paid (within 30 days), the BCAA considered the case closed. However, if the conditions of the CO are not adhered to, for example a similar future violation within a year, the original penalty is reinstated and an additional NOV and NOP may be issued.

Option 3: Application for Relief of Penalty (ARP). If you feel that the penalty is unjustified and wish to contest the penalty this is the option to take. It is an opportunity to tell your recollection of the events that lead to the NOV. Note, however, that if a reduction of penalty is granted, it will not be less than that offered on the CO. The ARP must be filed within 15 days.

Option 4: Appeal to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board (PCHB).
This is your opportunity to have a day in court. The PCHB is a state level hearing board that will hear the your case. The PCHB has the power to overturn the penalty issued by the BCAA. However, if you choose this option, the PCHB will be considering the full amount of the penalty, not the amount listed in the CO. In most cases, the PCHB does not lower the penalty below that offered on the CO.

If you have any questions about your NOP or your legal options, please contact BCAA.

Also note that there are several timed deadlines that you should follow. Failure to meet specific deadlines nullifies certain avenues of appeal.

Fire Protection Districts

A link to the Fire Protection District Map is here.

City/Region Fire District Phone #
Benton City BCFPD #2 509-588-3212
Benton County (East) BCFPD #1 509-734-9100
Benton County (West) BCFPD #5 509-786-1723
Finley BCFPD #1 509-734-9100
Kennewick Fire Department 509-585-4230
Patterson BCFPD #6 509-875-2029
Plymouth BCFPD #6 509-875-2029
Prosser BCFPD #3 509-786-3873
Prosser (South) BCFPD #5 509-786-1723
Richland Fire Department 509-942-7550
West Richland BCFPD #4 509-967-2945


Smoke Opacity

Smoke Opacity

State law prohibits the generation of excessive chimney smoke. Except for brief periods during start-up and refueling, smoke is in violation when it obscures objects viewed through it by more than 20%.

Generation of smoke densities greater than 20% could result in fines from air pollution control officials. Stoves operated with dry wood and a generous air supply produce less smoke and more heat.

Woodstoves and Fireplaces

Clean Home Heating

Many people don’t think of the smoke from their wood stove or fireplace as air pollution. Some people even like the smell of wood smoke. But wood smoke is one of the main sources of air pollution in Washington.

Wood smoke contains fine particles, PM 2.5, which are associated with serious health effects, as the tiny size of these pollutants allows them to be easily inhaled, bypassing the immune system and proceeding deep into your lungs, where they can cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems, including premature death.

In winter, more than half of Washington’s fine particle air pollution comes from the homes being heated using wood. Wood stoves, fireplaces and other wood-burning devices put out hundreds of times more air pollution than other sources of heat such as natural gas, propane, oil or electricity.

Video on How to Select a New Stove for Home Heat

Video on How to Operate Your Wood Stove More Efficiently

The fire: Give it air!

The right amount of air gives you a hotter fire and more complete combustion. That translates to more heat from your wood and less smoke and pollution. Here are some cleaner burning tips:

  • Build small, hot fires. Don’t add too much fuel at one time.
  • Step outside and check the chimney or flue. If you can see smoke, your fire may need more air.
  • Read and follow the stove manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Don’t “bank” the stove full of wood and damper down the air supply. This wastes wood, produces much air pollution, promotes accumulation of creosote (which requires more frequent cleaning and can lead to chimney fires) and yields very little heat. Half-full is adequate; it provides enough air space for efficient combustion.
  • Don’t damper down too far. Allow enough air to reach the wood. This varies among models and kinds of stoves.
  • Make sure your stove is the right size for your home. Too large a stove will overheat your living space. You’ll want to damper down. This causes added pollution and wastes wood.
  • Don’t burn in moderate temperatures. You’ll want to damper down, which causes more pollution and wastes wood.
  • Don’t burn when air currents carry your smoke to your neighbor’s yard or house.
  • Only burn dry, seasoned firewood, never garbage. Burning garbage is illegal in the state of Washington and creates a greater health hazard.

The fuel: keep it dry!

Wood can seem dry and still contain plenty of water, up to 50 percent. The moisture in wood makes the fire give off more smoke. On the other hand, dry wood can provide up to 44 percent more heat. It is against state law to burn wood with more than 20 percent moisture content in fireplaces or wood stoves.

Two things work very well at making sure your wood is dry enough: time and cover. Whether you buy wood or harvest your own, follow these tips to get it fire-ready:

  • Split it. The wood will dry best and burn most efficiently if the pieces are three and one-half to six inches in diameter.
  • Cover it. Protect the wood from rain and weather. Stack it loosely-in layers of alternating directions- to allow plenty of air circulation. Store it at least six inches off the ground.
  • Give it a year. Wood that has been split, dried and stored under cover for at least one year usually meets the 20 percent moisture content requirement.

State law does not regulate the dryness of any wood sold. If the seller states that the wood is dry or seasoned, consider it a claim; make sure for yourself. You—and not the seller—are responsible for the dryness of the wood you put on your fire.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I burn in my woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue on a “no burn day”?

Yes. Woodstove, fireplace, and barbecue use is unrestricted at all times. The burn day decision does not apply to these devices. The only time when use is restricted is during a statewide air pollution episode, which occurs rarely.

Can I burn paper or garbage in my woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue?

Washington State law prohibits the burning of paper, except that which is necessary to start the fire. Burning large amounts of paper is potentially very dangerous as often large burning embers exit the chimney and can cause fires outside the home. The burning of garbage is strictly prohibited by State law.

How do I know if I am burning correctly in my woodstove or fireplace?

Your woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue must be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Also, the amount of smoke produces by these devices must be minimized. The smoke coming out of your chimney should be almost colorless and thin. Thick, white or black smoke indicates that your fire is not receiving enough air. Woodstoves, fireplaces, and barbecues should be used in such a way as to minimize the impact on neighbors. Here are some additional tips:

  • Burn only dry fuel. Moist wood gives off more smoke and may produce up to 44% less heat.
  • Ideally, burn wood that has been split and dried for one year.
  • Never burn painted, stained or treated wood, colored newsprint, plastic, cardboard, garbage, diapers or magazines.
  • Twenty minutes after starting your fire, check your chimney for smoke. If you see any smoke, it probably exceeds the legal limit. Increase air to the fire for cleaner burning.
  • Burn small hot fires and allow plenty of air to reach the fire. Avoid excessive dampening to extend the duration of the burn, see The Myth of Air-Starved Burning below.
  • Never allow the fire to smolder. Smoldering fires pollute, are inefficient and are a fire hazard.

One myth, which is perhaps the most damaging to air quality and potentially damaging to health and safety, is that there are benefits to starving a wood stove for adequate combustion of air. A fire starved for air is excessively smoky because of incomplete combustion and therefore produces more unburned particulates and gaseous air pollutants than a hot fire with adequate air. Poor combustion also promotes the buildup of creosote in chimneys posing a fire hazard. Carbon monoxide from incomplete combustion can also buildup inside houses posing a direct threat of death by asphyxiation.

This myth had its origin in the 1970’s energy crisis when the popularity of wood stoves increased. Many poorly designed stoves have been marketed that are not air-tight and otherwise have poor combustion air controls. Manufacturers may have recommended, or owners may have discovered, the technique of severely restricting air flow to compensate for poor design. In addition, marginal economics and high labor requirements of wood burning have made conservation of wood a priority, which makes reducing wood consumption yet another excuse for starving wood stove fires for air.

Burning of uncured wood with moisture contents over 20% compounds the problems of poor combustion from air-starved fires by promoting even greater production of air pollutants and creosote. Burning high moisture wood decreases the usable energy from the wood because heat from burning is diverted into evaporating the water rather than heating the air as desired.

What are some of health effects from breathing smoke from woodstove, fireplaces or barbecues?*

Breathing air containing wood smoke can:

  • reduce lung function, especially in children;
  • increase severity of existing lung disease such as asthma, emphysema, pneumonia and bronchitis;
  • aggravate heart disease;
  • increase susceptibility to lower respiratory diseases;
  • irritate eyes, lungs, throat and sinuses;
  • trigger headaches and allergies.

Those at greatest health risk from wood smoke include:

  • fetuses, infants and children;
  • people with lung, heart, circulatory diseases or allergies;
  • the elderly;
  • cigarette smokers and ex-smokers.

Contents of wood smoke:

There are many components to wood smoke that can cause risk to your health. These compounds include:

  • carbon monoxide, fatal in high concentrations;
  • formaldehyde, a possible cause of human cancer;
  • organic gases which may interfere with lung function;
  • nitrogen oxides, linked to hardening of the arteries;
  • tiny smoke particles that lodge in the lungs causing structural damage. These tiny particles, or PM10, are less than 10 microns wide, or about 1/7 the diameter of a human hair.

What if my neighbor’s woodstove or fireplace is producing a strong, foul odor?

The primary cause of foul odors from woodstoves and fireplaces is the burning of green wood. Because green wood contains so much water, it does not burn efficiently and essentially just smolders. Smoldering fires are not hot enough to destroy the bulk of the odors. The solution to such a problem is to burn well-seasoned, dry wood in a hot fire, with lots of air. If you are bothered by a neighbor’s smoke, you should contact the BCAA office or file a complaint

What are the restrictions on buying or selling a used woodstove or fireplace in Benton County?

Since July 1, 1992, only EPA certified wood stoves and fireplace inserts may be legally sold or installed in Washington. There should be a metal tag permanently affixed to the device that will indicate EPA certification. According to Washington State law and BCAA Regulation 1, it is illegal to advertise to sell, offer to sell, sell, bargain, exchange, or give away an uninstalled used uncertified fireplace or woodstove. If you have any questions, please contact the BCAA.

A list of EPA certified woodstoves can be found at the Washington State Department of Ecology Air Program website

Alternatives to Outdoor Burning

Non-Burning Alternatives are available and many residents choose to chip or compost this material to use in their yard and garden. Others may haul their “clean green” to a local recycling transfer station or to a private collection company.

Instead of burning your yard debris, why not try an alternative. The following is a list of several that are available.

Composting

Want bigger, brighter, fuller flowers and county-fair-sized vegetables? Try composting your garden and yard debris. Nothing beats adding compost for soil enrichment. And if you think composting is just a fad of the ’90s, here’s and interesting fact: a Roman statesman named Marcus Cato introduced composting as a way to build up the soil of ancient Rome more that 2,000 years ago. In-the-know gardeners will tell you that nothing makes their gardens grow like a great homemade compost. Creating a balance of wet, “green” materials (such as grass clippings, certain food scraps, and various kinds of manure and dry, “brown” materials (the dry leaves and woody materials that you might previously burned!) creates the perfect compost. The “browns” are really carbon-rich materials and the “greens” are nitrogen-rich products that work together with microbes to build a soil-enriching compost for your garden. Need some more convincing reasons to compost?

Here’s a list of some of the great benefits of composting:

  • Composting is a perfect alternative to open (backyard) burning
  • Composting saves space in the landfill
  • Composing enriches the soil and turns out better plants and vegetables
  • Composting is convenient. Just think, the time and energy you now expend to bag and haul all your garden debris to the trash can, landfill, or transfer station can be turned into a useful product.
  • Composting saves money (less money spent on leaf bags, fertilizers, mulch, bagged compost, peat moss, or other soil enhancements).

For more information on backyard composting, call the Washington State University Cooperative Extension or the Benton County Solid Waste Department (see Resources below) or check out the BCAA Composting flier by clicking the burning tab at the top of the page and then scrolling to the bottom.

Make Your Own Mulch

Mulch is a protective covering for your plants, shrubs, and trees that truly benefits your garden. When it’s spread in garden beds or under shrubs and trees, mulch reduces evaporation, maintains even soil temperature, prevent erosion, controls weeds, and enriches the soil. You can make your own mulch by chipping “brown: or carbon-rich yard debris. Call the Washington State Cooperative Extension or the Benton County Solid Waste Department (see Resources below).

You can find out more information by viewing the BCAA Mulching flier by clicking the burning tab at the top of the page and then scrolling to the bottom.

Use a Mulching Mover for a Healthy Lawn

If you leave “mulched” grass on your lawn instead of burning the clippings, you’re doing your grass, yourself, and the environment a favor. Don’t worry, because this finely chopped grass has a temporary mulching effect but rapidly decomposes to return valuable nutrients to the soil. Together these benefits of a mulching mower help your lawn hold water and reduce fertilizer costs. Over time, the soils in our hot, dry climate become healthier simply from the added organic matter. Perhaps the best benefit is that you spend less time handling grass clippings. You can buy a mulching mower for the same cost as comparable non-mulching mowers and some models even have a mulch/no mulch/bagging option.

Chipping

Large quantities of woody vegetative material from yards, gardens, other landscaping features, or land- clearing can be turned into a useful product. The resulting wood chips can be used for a number of purposes. For more information, check out the BCAA Chipping flier by clicking the burning tab at the top of the page and then scrolling to the bottom.

Landscape Management

In our region, most people prefer irrigated lawns with trees, shrubs and grass for the benefits they provide: cooling, fire protection, and aesthetic environment. If you can incorporate some of the following ideas into your landscaping, you may lessen your yard debris:

Reduce or limit the number of trees and shrubs you plant

  • Plant varieties that minimize debris
  • Plant low-residue plant and native varieties that thrive in our grow zone
  • Consider planting a xeriscape – an urban landscape that decreases yard waste and conserves water as well. In xeriscapes, native or arid-zone adapted plants produce minimum residue and rely on natural rainfall only.

Use the Landfill

Disposing of your yard debris in a landfill is also an alternative to burning. This is especially true for people who can’t take advantage of composting, making mulch, mulching mowers, or installing low-residue landscaping. In other parts of the state, landfill space is at a premium, but in our region, landfill space is not currently a concern. However, disposing as recyclable yard debris in the landfill is an option that should be used only as necessary as a substitute for open burning.

Resources

Washington State University Cooperative Extension
Master Gardener Program
Tri-Cities (509) 735-3551
Prosser (509) 786-2226

Benton County Solid Waste Department
Tri-Cities (509)783-1310 ext 5682
Prosser (509)786-5611

City of Richland
Environmental Education Coordinator
505 Swift Blvd, Richland, WA 99352
(509) 942-7730

City of Kennewick
Solid Waste Environmental Division
210 W 6th Ave, Kennewick, WA 99336
(509) 585-4317

Burning Detail Questions

... tumbleweeds blown on to my property?

Tumbleweeds that have been blown on to your property can be burned at any time, regardless of the burn day and regardless of whether you are inside or outside the Urban Growth Area (UGA). However, only the tumbleweeds can be burned, any other vegetative material to be burned is subject to the rules specific to your location.

... tumbleweeds that are growing on my property?

If the tumbleweeds are growing on your property, you cannot burn them in place.

If tumbleweeds are actually growing on your property, you must obtain a special burn permit in order to burn the tumblewweds in-place. Be aware that therer is a fee charged for a special burn permit. You may want to consider an alternative to burning such as mulching, mowing, or composting. However, you may also want to try to control the weeds before they become a problem by mowing or using a commercial herbicide. For more information you can download a flyer on tumbleweed burning here (PDF).

... in a woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue?

At the present time, in Benton County, there are no restrictions on when you can use your woodstove, barbecue, or fireplace. However, you must burn properly to minimize the impact of smoke on your neighbors.

... for recreation (campfire or bonfire)?

As of April 13, 2000, the definition and rules about recreational fires have changed. Recreational fire means [by definition] cooking fires, campfires, and bonfires using charcoal or firewood that occur in designated areas or on private property for cooking or pleasure purposes (WAC 173-425-030). Fires used for debris disposal are not considered recreational fires. For more information you can download a flyer on recreational fires here (PDF).

Inside the UGA: Recreational fires that are larger than three feet in diameter and two feet high require a permit. Permit conditions may limit the date and time burning is allowed. Recreational fires smaller than 3’x2’ are allowed at any time, regardless of the “burn day”, and do not require a permit.

Outside the UGA: Recreational fires are allowed at any time and do not require a permit.

... in a burn barrel?

As of April 13, 2000, the use of the traditional metal burn barrel is illegal throughout the State. This was done primarily to make the state rule consistent with the Uniform Fire Code.

If you feel that you must use a system similar to the burn barrel, waste disposal is still allowed in an outdoor burning device. This device must be constructed of concrete or masonry with a completely enclosed combustion chamber and a permanently attached iron spark arrester (max 1/2 inch holes). The device can only be used to dispose of natural vegetative debris. Paper, garbage, wood products, and other prohibited materials are illegal to burn.

... construction debris on my property?

The burning of construction debris is prohibited by state law, WAC 173-425-050(2), and by BCAA Regulation 1 Article 5 Section 5.02E. Because of the significant amount of prohibited materials found in construction fires of the past, BCAA Regulation 1 strictly prohibits any fire from occurring on a construction site. This includes the burning of vegetative debris and the burning of tumbleweeds. Burning illegally on a construction site will likely result in a violation and fine.

... on my small/hobby orchard?

Small hobby farms and small orchards are also subject to burning rules and regulations. If the farm or orchard sells what it produces and files a Schedule F with its income taxes, the farm is considered to be a commercial operation and is subject to the agricultural burning rules. All other farms and orchards are considered to be non-commercial. As with residential burning of yard waste, the location of the property is important.

Because outdoor burning have been substantially banned within the UGA, there are no “burn days” per se that farms and orchards may use for waste disposal. The only option available for farms and orchards within the UGA is to apply for a Special Burning Permit. Please contact us for information and details.

Outside the UGA, a farm or orchard can burn its dry, natural vegetation as long as there is a burn day. Burn day status is available by calling 946-4489. However, the farm cannot clear fields and steps must be taken to minimize the impact of the smoke on neighbors. Failure to comply with these additional restrictions could result in enforcement action.

If there are any questions concerning burning on hobby farms and orchards, please contact us.

... on a lot or area that is a fire hazard?

Brush and weeds on a piece of property can be considered a fire hazard. However, you will need to have your local fire department come to your property and declare it a fire hazard. In addition, the fire department must agree that burning the material would be the safest way to eliminate the hazard; in most cases alternatives, such as mowing, are equally effective. If the fire department determines that the fire hazard would be reduced by burning, then the BCAA will issue a permit to burn the material.

Frequently Asked Questions about Outdoor Burning

What are some alternatives to burning?

Information on Alternatives to Burning is here.

My residence is inside the Urban Growth Area (UGA) of Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Prosser, or Benton City, can I burn?

The Washington Administrative Code (WAC) required that residential and land clearing burning in urban growth areas of cities larger than 5,000 be banned as of January 1, 2001. For cities smaller than 5,000, such as Benton City, outdoor burning was allowed until January 1, 2004. However, as of January 1, burning is now banned in the UGA of Benton City as well. Recent changes in the State law have further defined what types of burning can or cannot take place within the urban growth areas. Based on these changes, the following is a summary list of the applicable rules for burning in the urban growth areas of Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Prosser, and Benton City.

If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the Urban Growth Area (UGA), you may search your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304 .

PROHIBITED

  • burning yard debris (leaves, branches, etc.) at your property
  • transferring material from Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Prosser, or Benton City to outside the UGA for the purpose of burning the material
  • the use of burn barrels
  • burning for land-clearing purposes
  • burning tumbleweeds that are growing on your property
  • burning garbage, dead animals, asphalt, petroleum products, paints, rubber products, plastics, paper (other than what is necessary to start the fire), cardboard, treated wood, construction debris, metal, or any substance (other than natural vegetation) which when burned releases toxic emissions, dense smoke, or odors.” (WAC 173-425-050(2))

ALLOWED WITH A PERMIT

  • burning a recreational fire greater than 3 feet in diameter.

ALLOWED WITHOUT A PERMIT

  • burning a recreational fire that is less than 3 feet in diameter
  • burning tumbleweeds that blew on to your property

Can I burn? My residence is outside the Urban Growth Area.

If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the UGA, you may search your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304.

If you have confirmed that your residence is outside of the urban growth area, you may burn under the residential burning rules.

In 1995, the Washington State legislature changed some of the burning rules and how they were applied in different parts of the State. For those residents outside of the UGA, the following rules apply:

PROHIBITED

  • burning garbage, dead animals, asphalt, petroleum products, paints, rubber products, plastics, paper (other than what is necessary to start the fire), cardboard, treated wood, construction debris, metal, or any substance (other than natural vegetation) which when burned releases toxic emissions, dense smoke, or odors.” (WAC 173-425-050(2))

PROHIBITED AS OF JAN 1, 2001

  • the use of burn barrels

ALLOWED ON A BURN DAY You must have a burn day before you may burn. The burn message, updated by 9 AM, is 509-783-6198.

  • Only material generated at your residence can be burned.
  • Only dry, natural vegetation can be burned. Burning paper (other than enough to start fire), plastic, lumber, building debris, and garbage is strictly prohibited.
  • Someone must be in attendance of the fire at all times and be able to put out the fire if necessary.
  • No fires are allowed within 50 feet of any flammable structure.
  • The pile size is limited to 4 ft by 4 ft by 3 ft high.
  • Only one pile can be burned at a time. Continually feeding material into one fire is OK.
  • The fire must be extinguished if it creates a nuisance.
  • You can only burn at your residential property or the property owner’s permission must be obtained prior to burning.
  • Your fire must be completely extinguished by the end of the burn day.

ALLOWED WITH A PERMIT

  • burning for weed abatement (including tumbleweeds growing on your property)
  • burning a recreational fire greater than 3 feet in diameter.

What is an “Urban Growth Area” and how do I know if my residence is inside or outside?

The applicable open burning regulations depend upon where the property is located with respect to the “Urban Growth Area”, or UGA. The urban growth area (UGA) is defined by a line that the incorporated cities (Richland, Kennewick, West Richland, Benton City, and Prosser) expect to grow into during the next 20 years. The UGA includes all the city limits, the “islands” of County within the cities, and some parts of County land immediately adjacent to the city limits. Those properties that lie inside of this boundary have different burning rules than those properties lying outside the boundary. If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the UGA, you may search for your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304.

Urban Growth Area Maps are here.

I can’t meet some or all of the burn rules, is there another way I can burn legally?

Many of the burn rules are, in many cases, restrictive by design. By creating these rules, the State can reduce the amount of burning taking place in the urban areas, reducing both air pollution and fire risk. However, there are circumstances where the BCAA can allow an individual or company to burn outside of these rules.

A Special Burn Permit may be issued under specific circumstances. The permit has an associated fee that is assessed in two parts. First, there is a $75 non-refundable application fee that must accompany the written application. This allows the BCAA Inspector to process the application and if necessary, inspect the materials to be burned prior to burning. The application can either be accepted or rejected at this point. If accepted, there is an additional charge of no more than $8.50 per cubic yard of material to be burned. The fees must be paid within 30 days of the permit being issued. A permit is issued that is specific to the applicant’s type of burning. The permit conditions often will allow more “burn days” than would be available under the urban are spring and fall burn windows.

If you would like to apply for a Special Burn Permit, the application is Special Burn Permit Request along with the fee, to the BCAA. If you have any questions, please contact us.

How does the BCAA determine whether or not to allow a “burn day”?

Information on how the daily burn decision is made is here.

“What about burning” answers to these questions are found here:*

  • tumbleweeds blown on to my property?
  • tumbleweeds that are growing on my property?
  • in a woodstove, barbecue, or fireplace?
  • for recreation (campfire or bonfire)?
  • in a burn barrel?
  • construction debris on my property?
  • on my small/hobby orchard?
  • on a lot or area that is a fire hazard?

How do I build a good, hot fire, that does not produce a lot of smoke? The Boy Scouts of America recommend when burning a fire:

1. Use dry, seasoned wood. Do not burn material that has just been cut or has been soaked by moisture. 2. Use a mixture of material of different sizes and thickness. Start with small tinder: like dry moss or really dry pine needles. Next, put kindling into the fire. Kindling are small pieces of wood no larger than the width of one of your fingers. Arrange your third and last material, the “fuel” (larger material), in a teepee type style. Put a break in the pattern, like a door to the teepee, facing into the wind. This break allows the breeze to blow into the fire and creates a hotter, more efficient fire. 3. Light your fire with matches, no fuel (gasoline, lighter fluid, etc.) should be necessary, through the door of the teepee. Start by lighting the tinder, the tinder will then catch the remaining material on fire. Add material as the fire burns hot and quickly.

My property is zoned agriculture. Do I follow the open burning rules or the agricultural burning rules?

State law views residential burning and agricultural burning as two separate issues, both with associated laws. In order to qualify an agricultural burn permit you must show evidence of agricultural activity taking place, usually in the form of supplying a copy of the IRS form Schedule F: Profit and Loss from Farming. Only those operations with proof of an agricultural operation will be issued an agricultural burn permit. The zoning regulations are local regulations and do not apply to burning applications. Areas which are zoned agriculture, but do not supply this proof, must comply with the general rule burn rules and the “burn days”.

Urban Growth Area Information

The applicable open burning regulations depend upon where the property is located with respect to the “Urban Growth Area”, or UGA. The urban growth area (UGA) is defined by a line that the incorporated cities (Richland, Kennewick, West Richland, Benton City, and Prosser) expect to grow into during the next 20 years. The UGA includes all the city limits, the “islands” of County within the cities, and some parts of County land immediately adjacent to the city limits. Those properties that lie inside of this boundary have different burning rules than those properties lying outside the boundary. If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the UGA, you can search your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304.

Regulations

Ecology’s rule on Outdoor Burning is here.

Daily Burn Decision

This information applies only to residents that live outside of the urban growth area. If you are inside the city limits of Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Benton City, or Prosser you are never allowed to burn yard debris at your residence. Also please note, that just because your property is outside of city limits, does not mean that you are also outside the urban growth area. To search whether your address is within an urban growth area, click here. You may also call the Benton County Planning Dept. or Benton Clean Air Agency for help determining whether you are inside or outside the urban growth area.

The Residential and Agricultural burn line numbers can be found in the top left corner of the page. Please call to find out the current conditions and restrictions. The daily burn decision is also available here.

The burn decision is made every morning prior to 9:00 am and is based on that day’s forecasted meteorological conditions. If necessary, the burn lines are updated to reflect the status of the burn decision. Should conditions unexpectedly change, the burn line may be updated as needed.

When making the burn decision, the BCAA utilizes information from the National Weather Service and a modeling forecast produced by the University of WA, in cooperation with the Dept of Ecology. This modeling forecast is called the “MM5” and gives a projected forecast of the atmospheric dispersion conditions, throughout the state, at different times throughout the day.

These tools are used uniformly throughout most of the state in making the daily agricultural burn decision. Forecasted wind speeds are not a primary factor in determining agricultural burn days in Benton County. Fire safety is the responsibility of the farmers. Wind warnings are given on the burn day message for surface wind speeds forecasted above 15 mph.

The residential burn decision is based on the same information used to make the agricultural burn decision. However, in consideration for fire safety and at the request of our local fire departments, wind speed is taken into consideration. When the surface wind speeds from the National Weather Service office in Pendleton, OR for the Columbia Basin are forecast to exceed 20 mph, residential burning will not be allowed. For forecasted surface wind speeds between 15 and 20 mph, a wind warning is issued.

For outdoor burning, the Benton Clean Air Agency allows burning generally only when dispersion conditions are forecasted to be good.

Bright sunny days are frequently not good smoke dispersion days and are characterized by high pressure systems. The latter characteristically has descending air masses, low mixing level ceilings, and little horizontal air movement. Known in meteorology as stable air masses, all the factors associated with these air masses combine to limit the both the volume and vertical mixing of near-surface air. Air pollutants emitted into the air under these conditions from any source, one of which may be outdoor burning, are effectively trapped and do not disperse by vertical mixing and horizontal transport at higher altitudes.

In contrast, low pressure weather systems are characterized by unstable air that is rising and frequently turbulent. Both vertical mixing with high elevation mixing levels and horizontal air movement very effectively dilute and disperse air pollutants emitted into the air.

Unfortunately, these meteorologically unstable air masses frequently have high wind speeds and gusty wind plus precipitation. High gusty wind conditions pose a fire safety hazard.

Outdoor Burning

Residential Burning Program

Under the residential burning program, only residents located outside of the Urban Growth Area are allowed to burn. Residents outside the UGA must still call the residential burn line to find out whether or not it is a burn day. The phone number is located at the top of the page, and is updated on a daily basis. You may also find the burn decision, here.

To search whether your address is within an Urban Growth Area of Benton County, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page.

If it is a burn day, and you are located outside of the UGA, the following burning rules apply:

  • Only dry natural vegetation may be burned
  • Only one pile at a time may be burned, and the pile must be extinguished before ingniting another
  • The pile must be no larger than 4 feet by 4 feet by 3 feet tall
  • The fire must be located 50 feet from all flamable structures
  • You must be in attendance of the fire at all times
  • You must not create a nuisance with the smoke from your fire
  • The use of burn barrels is prohibited

Failure to adhere to these rules may result in the issuance of a violation and/or fine.

Residents Inside The Urban Growth Area

Residents located inside the Urban Growth Area are not allowed to burn for disposal purposes.

The following types of burning are allowed inside the Urban Growth Area:

1. Burning of tumbleweeds that have blown on to your property using the following guidelines:
- You must call the burn line to see if tumbleweed burning has been banned due to high winds or fire safety
- You must not create a nuisance with the smoke
- You must be in attendance of the fire at all times
- The use of burn barrels is prohibited

2. Recreational Fires using the following guidelines:
- The fire must not be larger than 3 feet by 3 feet by 2 feet tall
- You must be in attendance at all times
- Only dry, seasoned firewood may be used; The fire cannot be used for disposal purposes
- The fire must be 50 feet from all flammable structures
- You must not create a nuisnace with the smoke
- The use of burn barrels is prohibited

3. Barbeques

4. Woodstoves

Failure to adhere to the guidelines listed above may result in a violation and/or fine.

Fees

A. An application fee for an agricultural burning permit shall be due and payable at the time of submittal of the application.

B. Upon approval of any agricultural burning permit application, the BCAA shall charge a fee at a maximum fee level as set by statute.

C. Minimum and variable fee levels are as follows:

  • Thirty seven dollars and fifty cents ($37.50) per calendar year per field burn based on burning up to ten acres or equivalent; Each additional acre is $3.75 per acre.
  • Eighty dollars ($80.00) for pile burning per calendar year per agricultural operation based on burning debris from up to 80 tons or equivalent; Each additional ton is $1.00 per ton.

The agricultural burning practices and research task force may set acreage equivalents, for non-field style agricultural burning practices, based on the amount of emissions relative to typical field burning emissions. Any acreage equivalents, established by rule, shall be used in determining fees. For agricultural burning conducted by irrigation or drainage districts, each mile of ditch (including banks) burned is calculated on an equivalent acreage basis.

For a complete breakdown of the fee schedule, click here.

Agricultural Burning Permits and Forms

Most commercial burning of agricultural fields or for agricultural purposes requires a permit from the BCAA.

Agricultural Permit is required for ..

  • Orchard or vineyard takeout
  • Vineyard prunings
  • Disease or weed control
  • Residue removal
  • Research/demonstration project
  • Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) or renovation purposes
  • “Flaming” of hop roots

Agricultural Permit is not required* for ..

  • Orchard prunings
  • Natural vegetation along fencelines, irrigation canals, or drainage ditches.
  • Tumbleweeds

*NOTE: Conversion of agricultural property to commercial or residential use, such as removal of an orchard to put in a housing development is not considered agricultural burning and is not allowed with an agricultural burn permit.

Regardless of whether the agricultural burn requires a permit, you must contact your local fire department and inform them prior to burning.

Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs)

Agricultural burning is allowed when it is reasonably necessary to carry out the enterprise. A farmer can show burning is reasonably necessary when it meets the criteria of the BMPs and no practical alternative exists. BMPs are one of the ways to demonstrate the need to burn. Growers not using BMPs must establish that their proposed burn is reasonably necessary and that no practical alternative is available. The burden of proof is on the grower, and the demonstration must satisfy the Department of Ecology and the local delegated permitting authority, if there is a local permitting authority.

Current BMP Information:

  • Agricultural Burning Best Management Practices – click here

Permit Applications

Before an agricultural burn permit is issued, an application must be submitted and processed. You will need both the permit application and a copy of one of the Best Management Guidelines documents:

The following steps describe the application procedure:

  • Fill out the application. Be specific and COMPLETE. Refer to the Best Management Practices Guidance document as necessary. Incomplete applications will not be processed.
  • Calculate the total acres/tons and fee In the space provided, write the number of acres/tons from each of the proposed burns. Add together the acres/tons of each proposed burn, this is the number of acres/tons proposed.
  • Make checks payable to BCAA. Please do not send cash.
  • Sign and date the applicant statement portion.
  • Send the application and check for the permit fee to:

Benton Clean Air Agency
526 S. Steptoe St.
Kennewick, WA 99336

Receiving Your Permit

The BCAA will act on a complete application within seven (7) days and either send to you a permit or written reason why the application has been denied. If an incomplete application is submitted, it will be returned along with the fee.

Agricultural Burning Regulations

There are three sources of agricultural burning regulations which pertain to the residents of Benton County:

What About Burning ...

… on an orchard?

Burning on an orchard is considered agricultural burning and is subject to WAC 173-430. In order to burn you must have filed a Schedule F (Profit and Loss from Farming) form with the IRS. If you have not, you may not burn for agricultural purposes and may be cited for burning in your orchard.

The same laws that govern other types of agricultural burning also regulate burning on an orchard. There are, however, some differences relating to the reasons why a particular burn is being conducted. It is important that the orchardist is well informed prior to burning on orchard lands in order to lessen the chances for enforcement action.

There are three types of burning that can take place on an orchard, each with differing requirements.

  • Crop Rotation: Tree removal with intent to replace with different tree “crop”

Orchardists who plan to change crops by removing existing trees and replacing with another tree type or a different agricultural product, will need to apply for an Agricultural Burn Permit. Burning the “old” trees are subject to the conditions on the permit and burning is limited to agricultural “burn days”.

  • Crop Removal: Tree removal with intent to change land use, for example using the land for a housing development

In many cases, orchards are converted to some other land use, such as a housing development. Since the land will no longer be used for agricultural purposes the trees that are removed cannot be burned under an Agricultural Burning Permit. However, a Special Burn Permit can be used for this purpose. The Special Burn Permit carries a non-refundable $50 application fee plus an additional fee based upon the total volume of material to be burned (maximum $8.50 per cubic yard). A Special Burn Permit application can be downloaded (PDF).

  • Orchard prunings

A permit is not needed to burn tree prunings. Prunings can be burned at any time regardless of the agricultural “burn day”. However, care must be taken so that the smoke does not impact neighboring residents. By causing impact on residents, the fire may need to be extinguished and depending upon circumstances, possible BCAA enforcement action may apply.

... on a vineyard?

After much deliberation with the WSU Cooperative Extension and with several vinyardists, it was established that vineyard prunings do not fall into the same category as orchard prunings. As such, any burning on a vineyard requires an Agricultural Burning Permit and needs to follow the general agricultural burn rules.

... on a grass seed farm?

Most grass-seed field burning in Washington State has been ended by the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology). Ecology has officially certified alternatives to grass seed field burning that are practical and reasonably available. Ecology has also determined that mechanical residue management is a viable and reasonable available alternative in most cases. Only under limited specific situations may some burning of grass-seed fields take place. For more information contact the BCAA Inspector Rob Rodger , or go to the Department of Ecology Air Program.

... “flaming” or burning hop roots?

The BCAA and the Department of Ecology considers “flaming” and the burning of hop roots to be agricultural burning. As such, this type of burning requires an Agricultural Burning permit and need to follow the general agricultural burn rules.

... for non-agricultural purposes (land-clearing)?

An agricultural burn permit can only be used in circumstances that directly affect the propagation of field crops. An example would be the burning or wheat stubble, or the removal of an orchard to plant new fruit trees. However, if agricultural purposes will be ceased on a property and the land is to be cleared for another purpose, such as a housing development, an agricultural burning permit cannot be used for this purpose and a special burn permit is required. A Special Burn permit carries a non-refundable $50 application fee plus a negotiable $8.50 per cubic yard of to-be-burned material fee. An application for a Special Burn Permit can be downloaded (PDF).

Special Burn Permit Request

Agricultural Burning Regulations

  • Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 173-430 click here

Agricultural Daily Burn Decision

When is the next burn day?

Agricultural Burn Day

Burn days are not called in advance. BCAA staff checks for forecasted air dispersion conditions, which if they meet the critieria, mean that any smoke generated from burning should be diluted enough not to impact the general population. Wind speeds are also taken into consideration when making the daily decision. If strong winds are forcasted, incidental burning may also not be allowed in addition to permitted burning.

Also, most types of agricultural burns require a permit, others do not. Be sure that you understand whether or not you need a permit. Burning without a permit may lead to enforcement actions. Please do not hesitate to contact the BCAA office for clarification and assistance.

The burn day message is updated at 9 a.m. daily; no burn day will ever start prior to 9 a.m.

BCAA Office Agricultural Burn Line: 509-783-6570 or CLICK HERE

Burning

Burning, whether done indoors for heat or outdoors for recreation, creates unhealthful air pollution. Before burning, you need to know if burning is allowed and under what circumstances. By following the rules, you will keep smoke emissions to a minimum and avoid a potentially costly fine.

Agricultural Burning
In this section learn more about:

  • Agricultural Burning Best Manage Practices
  • Agricultural Burning Rules and permits

Outdoor Burning
In this section, learn more about:

  • Outdoor burning in Benton County – what’s allowed, what’s not
  • Residential, Land Clearing
  • Alternatives to burning
  • Health effects of burning – what you should know

Woodstoves and Fireplaces
In this section learn more about:

  • Key facts about wood heating
  • Air quality requirements related to wood burning
  • Limits on visible chimney smoke (opacity limits)

Outdoor Burning Fact Sheets

Agricultural Burning

The way agricultural burning is being managed is changing in the Northwest, with Washington State leading the way. This change is part of a comprehensive revision of the state’s air pollution laws that affects not just agriculture, but many other commercial, individual and governmental activities. The Clean Air Washington Act of 1991 (Chapter 70.94 RCW) states that those who contribute to air pollution will share the job of protecting air quality.

Agricultural burning is setting fire to:

  • Crop residue after harvest in order to reduce excess plant material and hinder pest infestations
  • Fruit tree debris from orchards after pruning or tree removal
  • Cereal grain (wheat, barley, corn and oats) stubble after harvest

All agricultural burning must follow Best Management Practices. Information on these BMP’s is found here.

Questions about burning

What is “agricultural burning” and how is it different from other forms of burning?

Agricultural burning is one of three kinds of outdoor burning. Outdoor burning also includes silvicultural (forest land) burning, and “open burning” — any other kind of burning outdoors in the open or in containers. As a farm management tool, an estimated 3, 000 to 5,000 agricultural fires are set each year in Washington, with up to 600,000 acres thought to be burned. Studies show that air quality levels can exceed federal health standards in areas affected by outdoor burning, especially from larger fires, or when dispersion of smoke by the wind is poor.

The Washington Clean Air Act (RCW 70.94) protects air quality in the state. Specifically, the RCW requires agricultural permits for commercial agricultural operations that burn natural vegetation as a farm management tool. The law also requires that the grower show the burning is reasonably necessary to carry out the enterprise. Agricultural burning meeting the criteria of the best management practices (identified by the agricultural burning practices and research task force) and where no practical alternative exists automatically satisfies this requirement. For further information, also see WAC 173-430.

Other forms of outdoor burning, such as that which is done at residences within the urban areas are considered to be waste-disposal, not as a management tool. This is primarily why many forms of outdoor burning are being phased out over time.

When is the next agricultural burn day?

Agricultural burn days are not called in advance. The BCAA staff checks for forecast air circulation conditions, which if good, mean that any smoke generated from burning should be diluted enough not to impact the general population. Because wind speed considerations are not taken into account when determining an agricultural burn day, it is the responsibility of the agricultural operation to determine if it is safe to burn or not.

Also, certain types of agricultural burns require a permit while others do not. Be sure that you understand whether or not you need a permit. Burning without a permit may lead to enforcement actions. Please do not hesitate to contact the BCAA office for clarification and assistance.

The burn day message is updated at 9 a.m. daily; no burn day will ever start prior to 9 a.m.

BCAA Office Agricultural Burn Line: 783-6570 or CLICK HERE

Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs)

Agricultural burning is allowed when it is reasonably necessary to carry out the enterprise. A farmer can show burning is reasonably necessary when it meets the criteria of the BMPs and no practical alternative exists. BMPs are one of the ways to demonstrate the need to burn. Growers not using BMPs must establish that their proposed burn is reasonably necessary and that no practical alternative is available. The burden of proof is on the grower, and the demonstration must satisfy the Department of Ecology and the local delegated permitting authority, if there is a local permitting authority.

Permits:

Many kinds of agricultural burning require permits. Information about permit applications, and the regulations upon which these programs are based is found here:

Do I need a permit to burn and how do I get one?

Agricultural Burning Permits and Forms

When is an agricultural burn permit not necessary?

Agricultural Burning Permits and Forms

What about burning?:

Other Agricultural Burning

  • on an commercial orchard
  • on a vineyard
  • on a grass seed farm
  • “flaming” or burning hop roots
  • for non-agricultural purposes (land-clearing)

The Department of Ecology’s page on Agricultural Burning is here.

Benton Clean Air Agency

Benton Clean Air Agency

Burn Decision & UGA Map



Determine whether or not you may burn at your location on residential burn days

Please enter your address to determine whether you are in an urban growth area of Benton County

Notices of Violation

If I am caught burning illegally, what will happen?

Enforcement actions usually begin once the BCAA receives complaints about illegal burning taking place. One of our inspectors is sent to the site to judge the severity of the violation and to document what is going on. The Inspector will try to locate the responsible individual or company and make them aware of the violations. At this point, the fire is required to be extinguished. After the Inspector finishes at the site, one of two things happens, either a warning letter or a Notice of Violation (NOV) is issued.

Warning letters are sent out if the violation was relatively minor or if the burner was uninformed. Once a warning letter is sent, the BCAA generally considers the case closed. If there are further violations after an individual or company has received a warning letter, the enforcement action may increase to an NOV, which is a much firmer form of enforcement.

The NOV is an official enforcement action and should be taken very seriously. Essentially the NOV is a ticket that informs the burner of the laws that were violated and of the Inspector’s findings at the site. The NOV starts the process of a formal case against the burner and cannot be appealed.Thirty days after the burner receives the NOV, the BCAA may assess a penalty in another formal document called a Notice of Penalty (NOP). According to Washington State law, penalties of up to $10,000 per violation per day may be assessed. For example, burning garbage in the city limits one a no-burn day with no mean to put the fire out equates to three violations or a maximum of $30,000 fine. Generally, though the BCAA does not fine to the greatest extent of the law and actual fines can be much lower.

I have received a “Notice of Violation”. What does it mean and what do I do now?

If you have received a Notice of Violation (NOV), it means that you have violated one or more air quality regulations. The NOV serves as official notice of the laws that were violated and of the Inspector’s report on the situation. It is important that you read the NOV very carefully. The NOV cannot be appealed. However, you may send written documentation to the BCAA indicating your understanding of the situation.

Thirty days after you receive your NOV, you may receive a Notice of Penalty (NOP). The NOP is the official notice of a fine being levied against you. You may or may not receive an NOP, as one is assigned on a case-by-case basis. The NOP is appealable and several options are presented in the NOP documentation. Again, you should read the documentation very carefully.

If you have any questions, please contact BCAA.

I have received a “Notice of Penalty”. What does it mean and what do I do now?

if you have received a Notice of Penalty (NOP), it means that thirty days have passed since you received the Notice of Violation (NOV). The NOP is the official notice of a fine being levied against you. The NOP is appealable and several options are presented in the NOP documentation. Again, you should read the documentation very carefully.

Option 1: Pay the fine in full. If you take option 1, your full payment is due within 30 days.

Option 2: Consent Order (CO). (Note: A consent order may or may not be available.) The CO represents a reduced penalty that may be paid in lieu of full payment if you do not commit a similar violation within the next year. By taking the CO, you forfeit the other avenues of mitigation and appeal. Once the paperwork has been filed and signed and the reduced penalty paid (within 30 days), the BCAA considered the case closed. However, if the conditions of the CO are not adhered to, for example a similar future violation within a year, the original penalty is reinstated and an additional NOV and NOP may be issued.

Option 3: Application for Relief of Penalty (ARP). If you feel that the penalty is unjustified and wish to contest the penalty this is the option to take. It is an opportunity to tell your recollection of the events that lead to the NOV. Note, however, that if a reduction of penalty is granted, it will not be less than that offered on the CO. The ARP must be filed within 15 days.

Option 4: Appeal to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board (PCHB).
This is your opportunity to have a day in court. The PCHB is a state level hearing board that will hear the your case. The PCHB has the power to overturn the penalty issued by the BCAA. However, if you choose this option, the PCHB will be considering the full amount of the penalty, not the amount listed in the CO. In most cases, the PCHB does not lower the penalty below that offered on the CO.

If you have any questions about your NOP or your legal options, please contact BCAA.

Also note that there are several timed deadlines that you should follow. Failure to meet specific deadlines nullifies certain avenues of appeal.

Fire Protection Districts

A link to the Fire Protection District Map is here.

City/Region Fire District Phone #
Benton City BCFPD #2 509-588-3212
Benton County (East) BCFPD #1 509-734-9100
Benton County (West) BCFPD #5 509-786-1723
Finley BCFPD #1 509-734-9100
Kennewick Fire Department 509-585-4230
Patterson BCFPD #6 509-875-2029
Plymouth BCFPD #6 509-875-2029
Prosser BCFPD #3 509-786-3873
Prosser (South) BCFPD #5 509-786-1723
Richland Fire Department 509-942-7550
West Richland BCFPD #4 509-967-2945


Smoke Opacity

Smoke Opacity

State law prohibits the generation of excessive chimney smoke. Except for brief periods during start-up and refueling, smoke is in violation when it obscures objects viewed through it by more than 20%.

Generation of smoke densities greater than 20% could result in fines from air pollution control officials. Stoves operated with dry wood and a generous air supply produce less smoke and more heat.

Woodstoves and Fireplaces

Clean Home Heating

Many people don’t think of the smoke from their wood stove or fireplace as air pollution. Some people even like the smell of wood smoke. But wood smoke is one of the main sources of air pollution in Washington.

Wood smoke contains fine particles, PM 2.5, which are associated with serious health effects, as the tiny size of these pollutants allows them to be easily inhaled, bypassing the immune system and proceeding deep into your lungs, where they can cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems, including premature death.

In winter, more than half of Washington’s fine particle air pollution comes from the homes being heated using wood. Wood stoves, fireplaces and other wood-burning devices put out hundreds of times more air pollution than other sources of heat such as natural gas, propane, oil or electricity.

Video on How to Select a New Stove for Home Heat

Video on How to Operate Your Wood Stove More Efficiently

The fire: Give it air!

The right amount of air gives you a hotter fire and more complete combustion. That translates to more heat from your wood and less smoke and pollution. Here are some cleaner burning tips:

  • Build small, hot fires. Don’t add too much fuel at one time.
  • Step outside and check the chimney or flue. If you can see smoke, your fire may need more air.
  • Read and follow the stove manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Don’t “bank” the stove full of wood and damper down the air supply. This wastes wood, produces much air pollution, promotes accumulation of creosote (which requires more frequent cleaning and can lead to chimney fires) and yields very little heat. Half-full is adequate; it provides enough air space for efficient combustion.
  • Don’t damper down too far. Allow enough air to reach the wood. This varies among models and kinds of stoves.
  • Make sure your stove is the right size for your home. Too large a stove will overheat your living space. You’ll want to damper down. This causes added pollution and wastes wood.
  • Don’t burn in moderate temperatures. You’ll want to damper down, which causes more pollution and wastes wood.
  • Don’t burn when air currents carry your smoke to your neighbor’s yard or house.
  • Only burn dry, seasoned firewood, never garbage. Burning garbage is illegal in the state of Washington and creates a greater health hazard.

The fuel: keep it dry!

Wood can seem dry and still contain plenty of water, up to 50 percent. The moisture in wood makes the fire give off more smoke. On the other hand, dry wood can provide up to 44 percent more heat. It is against state law to burn wood with more than 20 percent moisture content in fireplaces or wood stoves.

Two things work very well at making sure your wood is dry enough: time and cover. Whether you buy wood or harvest your own, follow these tips to get it fire-ready:

  • Split it. The wood will dry best and burn most efficiently if the pieces are three and one-half to six inches in diameter.
  • Cover it. Protect the wood from rain and weather. Stack it loosely-in layers of alternating directions- to allow plenty of air circulation. Store it at least six inches off the ground.
  • Give it a year. Wood that has been split, dried and stored under cover for at least one year usually meets the 20 percent moisture content requirement.

State law does not regulate the dryness of any wood sold. If the seller states that the wood is dry or seasoned, consider it a claim; make sure for yourself. You—and not the seller—are responsible for the dryness of the wood you put on your fire.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I burn in my woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue on a “no burn day”?

Yes. Woodstove, fireplace, and barbecue use is unrestricted at all times. The burn day decision does not apply to these devices. The only time when use is restricted is during a statewide air pollution episode, which occurs rarely.

Can I burn paper or garbage in my woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue?

Washington State law prohibits the burning of paper, except that which is necessary to start the fire. Burning large amounts of paper is potentially very dangerous as often large burning embers exit the chimney and can cause fires outside the home. The burning of garbage is strictly prohibited by State law.

How do I know if I am burning correctly in my woodstove or fireplace?

Your woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue must be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Also, the amount of smoke produces by these devices must be minimized. The smoke coming out of your chimney should be almost colorless and thin. Thick, white or black smoke indicates that your fire is not receiving enough air. Woodstoves, fireplaces, and barbecues should be used in such a way as to minimize the impact on neighbors. Here are some additional tips:

  • Burn only dry fuel. Moist wood gives off more smoke and may produce up to 44% less heat.
  • Ideally, burn wood that has been split and dried for one year.
  • Never burn painted, stained or treated wood, colored newsprint, plastic, cardboard, garbage, diapers or magazines.
  • Twenty minutes after starting your fire, check your chimney for smoke. If you see any smoke, it probably exceeds the legal limit. Increase air to the fire for cleaner burning.
  • Burn small hot fires and allow plenty of air to reach the fire. Avoid excessive dampening to extend the duration of the burn, see The Myth of Air-Starved Burning below.
  • Never allow the fire to smolder. Smoldering fires pollute, are inefficient and are a fire hazard.

One myth, which is perhaps the most damaging to air quality and potentially damaging to health and safety, is that there are benefits to starving a wood stove for adequate combustion of air. A fire starved for air is excessively smoky because of incomplete combustion and therefore produces more unburned particulates and gaseous air pollutants than a hot fire with adequate air. Poor combustion also promotes the buildup of creosote in chimneys posing a fire hazard. Carbon monoxide from incomplete combustion can also buildup inside houses posing a direct threat of death by asphyxiation.

This myth had its origin in the 1970’s energy crisis when the popularity of wood stoves increased. Many poorly designed stoves have been marketed that are not air-tight and otherwise have poor combustion air controls. Manufacturers may have recommended, or owners may have discovered, the technique of severely restricting air flow to compensate for poor design. In addition, marginal economics and high labor requirements of wood burning have made conservation of wood a priority, which makes reducing wood consumption yet another excuse for starving wood stove fires for air.

Burning of uncured wood with moisture contents over 20% compounds the problems of poor combustion from air-starved fires by promoting even greater production of air pollutants and creosote. Burning high moisture wood decreases the usable energy from the wood because heat from burning is diverted into evaporating the water rather than heating the air as desired.

What are some of health effects from breathing smoke from woodstove, fireplaces or barbecues?*

Breathing air containing wood smoke can:

  • reduce lung function, especially in children;
  • increase severity of existing lung disease such as asthma, emphysema, pneumonia and bronchitis;
  • aggravate heart disease;
  • increase susceptibility to lower respiratory diseases;
  • irritate eyes, lungs, throat and sinuses;
  • trigger headaches and allergies.

Those at greatest health risk from wood smoke include:

  • fetuses, infants and children;
  • people with lung, heart, circulatory diseases or allergies;
  • the elderly;
  • cigarette smokers and ex-smokers.

Contents of wood smoke:

There are many components to wood smoke that can cause risk to your health. These compounds include:

  • carbon monoxide, fatal in high concentrations;
  • formaldehyde, a possible cause of human cancer;
  • organic gases which may interfere with lung function;
  • nitrogen oxides, linked to hardening of the arteries;
  • tiny smoke particles that lodge in the lungs causing structural damage. These tiny particles, or PM10, are less than 10 microns wide, or about 1/7 the diameter of a human hair.

What if my neighbor’s woodstove or fireplace is producing a strong, foul odor?

The primary cause of foul odors from woodstoves and fireplaces is the burning of green wood. Because green wood contains so much water, it does not burn efficiently and essentially just smolders. Smoldering fires are not hot enough to destroy the bulk of the odors. The solution to such a problem is to burn well-seasoned, dry wood in a hot fire, with lots of air. If you are bothered by a neighbor’s smoke, you should contact the BCAA office or file a complaint

What are the restrictions on buying or selling a used woodstove or fireplace in Benton County?

Since July 1, 1992, only EPA certified wood stoves and fireplace inserts may be legally sold or installed in Washington. There should be a metal tag permanently affixed to the device that will indicate EPA certification. According to Washington State law and BCAA Regulation 1, it is illegal to advertise to sell, offer to sell, sell, bargain, exchange, or give away an uninstalled used uncertified fireplace or woodstove. If you have any questions, please contact the BCAA.

A list of EPA certified woodstoves can be found at the Washington State Department of Ecology Air Program website

Alternatives to Outdoor Burning

Non-Burning Alternatives are available and many residents choose to chip or compost this material to use in their yard and garden. Others may haul their “clean green” to a local recycling transfer station or to a private collection company.

Instead of burning your yard debris, why not try an alternative. The following is a list of several that are available.

Composting

Want bigger, brighter, fuller flowers and county-fair-sized vegetables? Try composting your garden and yard debris. Nothing beats adding compost for soil enrichment. And if you think composting is just a fad of the ’90s, here’s and interesting fact: a Roman statesman named Marcus Cato introduced composting as a way to build up the soil of ancient Rome more that 2,000 years ago. In-the-know gardeners will tell you that nothing makes their gardens grow like a great homemade compost. Creating a balance of wet, “green” materials (such as grass clippings, certain food scraps, and various kinds of manure and dry, “brown” materials (the dry leaves and woody materials that you might previously burned!) creates the perfect compost. The “browns” are really carbon-rich materials and the “greens” are nitrogen-rich products that work together with microbes to build a soil-enriching compost for your garden. Need some more convincing reasons to compost?

Here’s a list of some of the great benefits of composting:

  • Composting is a perfect alternative to open (backyard) burning
  • Composting saves space in the landfill
  • Composing enriches the soil and turns out better plants and vegetables
  • Composting is convenient. Just think, the time and energy you now expend to bag and haul all your garden debris to the trash can, landfill, or transfer station can be turned into a useful product.
  • Composting saves money (less money spent on leaf bags, fertilizers, mulch, bagged compost, peat moss, or other soil enhancements).

For more information on backyard composting, call the Washington State University Cooperative Extension or the Benton County Solid Waste Department (see Resources below) or check out the BCAA Composting flier by clicking the burning tab at the top of the page and then scrolling to the bottom.

Make Your Own Mulch

Mulch is a protective covering for your plants, shrubs, and trees that truly benefits your garden. When it’s spread in garden beds or under shrubs and trees, mulch reduces evaporation, maintains even soil temperature, prevent erosion, controls weeds, and enriches the soil. You can make your own mulch by chipping “brown: or carbon-rich yard debris. Call the Washington State Cooperative Extension or the Benton County Solid Waste Department (see Resources below).

You can find out more information by viewing the BCAA Mulching flier by clicking the burning tab at the top of the page and then scrolling to the bottom.

Use a Mulching Mover for a Healthy Lawn

If you leave “mulched” grass on your lawn instead of burning the clippings, you’re doing your grass, yourself, and the environment a favor. Don’t worry, because this finely chopped grass has a temporary mulching effect but rapidly decomposes to return valuable nutrients to the soil. Together these benefits of a mulching mower help your lawn hold water and reduce fertilizer costs. Over time, the soils in our hot, dry climate become healthier simply from the added organic matter. Perhaps the best benefit is that you spend less time handling grass clippings. You can buy a mulching mower for the same cost as comparable non-mulching mowers and some models even have a mulch/no mulch/bagging option.

Chipping

Large quantities of woody vegetative material from yards, gardens, other landscaping features, or land- clearing can be turned into a useful product. The resulting wood chips can be used for a number of purposes. For more information, check out the BCAA Chipping flier by clicking the burning tab at the top of the page and then scrolling to the bottom.

Landscape Management

In our region, most people prefer irrigated lawns with trees, shrubs and grass for the benefits they provide: cooling, fire protection, and aesthetic environment. If you can incorporate some of the following ideas into your landscaping, you may lessen your yard debris:

Reduce or limit the number of trees and shrubs you plant

  • Plant varieties that minimize debris
  • Plant low-residue plant and native varieties that thrive in our grow zone
  • Consider planting a xeriscape – an urban landscape that decreases yard waste and conserves water as well. In xeriscapes, native or arid-zone adapted plants produce minimum residue and rely on natural rainfall only.

Use the Landfill

Disposing of your yard debris in a landfill is also an alternative to burning. This is especially true for people who can’t take advantage of composting, making mulch, mulching mowers, or installing low-residue landscaping. In other parts of the state, landfill space is at a premium, but in our region, landfill space is not currently a concern. However, disposing as recyclable yard debris in the landfill is an option that should be used only as necessary as a substitute for open burning.

Resources

Washington State University Cooperative Extension
Master Gardener Program
Tri-Cities (509) 735-3551
Prosser (509) 786-2226

Benton County Solid Waste Department
Tri-Cities (509)783-1310 ext 5682
Prosser (509)786-5611

City of Richland
Environmental Education Coordinator
505 Swift Blvd, Richland, WA 99352
(509) 942-7730

City of Kennewick
Solid Waste Environmental Division
210 W 6th Ave, Kennewick, WA 99336
(509) 585-4317

Burning Detail Questions

... tumbleweeds blown on to my property?

Tumbleweeds that have been blown on to your property can be burned at any time, regardless of the burn day and regardless of whether you are inside or outside the Urban Growth Area (UGA). However, only the tumbleweeds can be burned, any other vegetative material to be burned is subject to the rules specific to your location.

... tumbleweeds that are growing on my property?

If the tumbleweeds are growing on your property, you cannot burn them in place.

If tumbleweeds are actually growing on your property, you must obtain a special burn permit in order to burn the tumblewweds in-place. Be aware that therer is a fee charged for a special burn permit. You may want to consider an alternative to burning such as mulching, mowing, or composting. However, you may also want to try to control the weeds before they become a problem by mowing or using a commercial herbicide. For more information you can download a flyer on tumbleweed burning here (PDF).

... in a woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue?

At the present time, in Benton County, there are no restrictions on when you can use your woodstove, barbecue, or fireplace. However, you must burn properly to minimize the impact of smoke on your neighbors.

... for recreation (campfire or bonfire)?

As of April 13, 2000, the definition and rules about recreational fires have changed. Recreational fire means [by definition] cooking fires, campfires, and bonfires using charcoal or firewood that occur in designated areas or on private property for cooking or pleasure purposes (WAC 173-425-030). Fires used for debris disposal are not considered recreational fires. For more information you can download a flyer on recreational fires here (PDF).

Inside the UGA: Recreational fires that are larger than three feet in diameter and two feet high require a permit. Permit conditions may limit the date and time burning is allowed. Recreational fires smaller than 3’x2’ are allowed at any time, regardless of the “burn day”, and do not require a permit.

Outside the UGA: Recreational fires are allowed at any time and do not require a permit.

... in a burn barrel?

As of April 13, 2000, the use of the traditional metal burn barrel is illegal throughout the State. This was done primarily to make the state rule consistent with the Uniform Fire Code.

If you feel that you must use a system similar to the burn barrel, waste disposal is still allowed in an outdoor burning device. This device must be constructed of concrete or masonry with a completely enclosed combustion chamber and a permanently attached iron spark arrester (max 1/2 inch holes). The device can only be used to dispose of natural vegetative debris. Paper, garbage, wood products, and other prohibited materials are illegal to burn.

... construction debris on my property?

The burning of construction debris is prohibited by state law, WAC 173-425-050(2), and by BCAA Regulation 1 Article 5 Section 5.02E. Because of the significant amount of prohibited materials found in construction fires of the past, BCAA Regulation 1 strictly prohibits any fire from occurring on a construction site. This includes the burning of vegetative debris and the burning of tumbleweeds. Burning illegally on a construction site will likely result in a violation and fine.

... on my small/hobby orchard?

Small hobby farms and small orchards are also subject to burning rules and regulations. If the farm or orchard sells what it produces and files a Schedule F with its income taxes, the farm is considered to be a commercial operation and is subject to the agricultural burning rules. All other farms and orchards are considered to be non-commercial. As with residential burning of yard waste, the location of the property is important.

Because outdoor burning have been substantially banned within the UGA, there are no “burn days” per se that farms and orchards may use for waste disposal. The only option available for farms and orchards within the UGA is to apply for a Special Burning Permit. Please contact us for information and details.

Outside the UGA, a farm or orchard can burn its dry, natural vegetation as long as there is a burn day. Burn day status is available by calling 946-4489. However, the farm cannot clear fields and steps must be taken to minimize the impact of the smoke on neighbors. Failure to comply with these additional restrictions could result in enforcement action.

If there are any questions concerning burning on hobby farms and orchards, please contact us.

... on a lot or area that is a fire hazard?

Brush and weeds on a piece of property can be considered a fire hazard. However, you will need to have your local fire department come to your property and declare it a fire hazard. In addition, the fire department must agree that burning the material would be the safest way to eliminate the hazard; in most cases alternatives, such as mowing, are equally effective. If the fire department determines that the fire hazard would be reduced by burning, then the BCAA will issue a permit to burn the material.

Frequently Asked Questions about Outdoor Burning

What are some alternatives to burning?

Information on Alternatives to Burning is here.

My residence is inside the Urban Growth Area (UGA) of Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Prosser, or Benton City, can I burn?

The Washington Administrative Code (WAC) required that residential and land clearing burning in urban growth areas of cities larger than 5,000 be banned as of January 1, 2001. For cities smaller than 5,000, such as Benton City, outdoor burning was allowed until January 1, 2004. However, as of January 1, burning is now banned in the UGA of Benton City as well. Recent changes in the State law have further defined what types of burning can or cannot take place within the urban growth areas. Based on these changes, the following is a summary list of the applicable rules for burning in the urban growth areas of Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Prosser, and Benton City.

If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the Urban Growth Area (UGA), you may search your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304 .

PROHIBITED

  • burning yard debris (leaves, branches, etc.) at your property
  • transferring material from Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Prosser, or Benton City to outside the UGA for the purpose of burning the material
  • the use of burn barrels
  • burning for land-clearing purposes
  • burning tumbleweeds that are growing on your property
  • burning garbage, dead animals, asphalt, petroleum products, paints, rubber products, plastics, paper (other than what is necessary to start the fire), cardboard, treated wood, construction debris, metal, or any substance (other than natural vegetation) which when burned releases toxic emissions, dense smoke, or odors.” (WAC 173-425-050(2))

ALLOWED WITH A PERMIT

  • burning a recreational fire greater than 3 feet in diameter.

ALLOWED WITHOUT A PERMIT

  • burning a recreational fire that is less than 3 feet in diameter
  • burning tumbleweeds that blew on to your property

Can I burn? My residence is outside the Urban Growth Area.

If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the UGA, you may search your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304.

If you have confirmed that your residence is outside of the urban growth area, you may burn under the residential burning rules.

In 1995, the Washington State legislature changed some of the burning rules and how they were applied in different parts of the State. For those residents outside of the UGA, the following rules apply:

PROHIBITED

  • burning garbage, dead animals, asphalt, petroleum products, paints, rubber products, plastics, paper (other than what is necessary to start the fire), cardboard, treated wood, construction debris, metal, or any substance (other than natural vegetation) which when burned releases toxic emissions, dense smoke, or odors.” (WAC 173-425-050(2))

PROHIBITED AS OF JAN 1, 2001

  • the use of burn barrels

ALLOWED ON A BURN DAY You must have a burn day before you may burn. The burn message, updated by 9 AM, is 509-783-6198.

  • Only material generated at your residence can be burned.
  • Only dry, natural vegetation can be burned. Burning paper (other than enough to start fire), plastic, lumber, building debris, and garbage is strictly prohibited.
  • Someone must be in attendance of the fire at all times and be able to put out the fire if necessary.
  • No fires are allowed within 50 feet of any flammable structure.
  • The pile size is limited to 4 ft by 4 ft by 3 ft high.
  • Only one pile can be burned at a time. Continually feeding material into one fire is OK.
  • The fire must be extinguished if it creates a nuisance.
  • You can only burn at your residential property or the property owner’s permission must be obtained prior to burning.
  • Your fire must be completely extinguished by the end of the burn day.

ALLOWED WITH A PERMIT

  • burning for weed abatement (including tumbleweeds growing on your property)
  • burning a recreational fire greater than 3 feet in diameter.

What is an “Urban Growth Area” and how do I know if my residence is inside or outside?

The applicable open burning regulations depend upon where the property is located with respect to the “Urban Growth Area”, or UGA. The urban growth area (UGA) is defined by a line that the incorporated cities (Richland, Kennewick, West Richland, Benton City, and Prosser) expect to grow into during the next 20 years. The UGA includes all the city limits, the “islands” of County within the cities, and some parts of County land immediately adjacent to the city limits. Those properties that lie inside of this boundary have different burning rules than those properties lying outside the boundary. If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the UGA, you may search for your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304.

Urban Growth Area Maps are here.

I can’t meet some or all of the burn rules, is there another way I can burn legally?

Many of the burn rules are, in many cases, restrictive by design. By creating these rules, the State can reduce the amount of burning taking place in the urban areas, reducing both air pollution and fire risk. However, there are circumstances where the BCAA can allow an individual or company to burn outside of these rules.

A Special Burn Permit may be issued under specific circumstances. The permit has an associated fee that is assessed in two parts. First, there is a $75 non-refundable application fee that must accompany the written application. This allows the BCAA Inspector to process the application and if necessary, inspect the materials to be burned prior to burning. The application can either be accepted or rejected at this point. If accepted, there is an additional charge of no more than $8.50 per cubic yard of material to be burned. The fees must be paid within 30 days of the permit being issued. A permit is issued that is specific to the applicant’s type of burning. The permit conditions often will allow more “burn days” than would be available under the urban are spring and fall burn windows.

If you would like to apply for a Special Burn Permit, the application is Special Burn Permit Request along with the fee, to the BCAA. If you have any questions, please contact us.

How does the BCAA determine whether or not to allow a “burn day”?

Information on how the daily burn decision is made is here.

“What about burning” answers to these questions are found here:*

  • tumbleweeds blown on to my property?
  • tumbleweeds that are growing on my property?
  • in a woodstove, barbecue, or fireplace?
  • for recreation (campfire or bonfire)?
  • in a burn barrel?
  • construction debris on my property?
  • on my small/hobby orchard?
  • on a lot or area that is a fire hazard?

How do I build a good, hot fire, that does not produce a lot of smoke? The Boy Scouts of America recommend when burning a fire:

1. Use dry, seasoned wood. Do not burn material that has just been cut or has been soaked by moisture. 2. Use a mixture of material of different sizes and thickness. Start with small tinder: like dry moss or really dry pine needles. Next, put kindling into the fire. Kindling are small pieces of wood no larger than the width of one of your fingers. Arrange your third and last material, the “fuel” (larger material), in a teepee type style. Put a break in the pattern, like a door to the teepee, facing into the wind. This break allows the breeze to blow into the fire and creates a hotter, more efficient fire. 3. Light your fire with matches, no fuel (gasoline, lighter fluid, etc.) should be necessary, through the door of the teepee. Start by lighting the tinder, the tinder will then catch the remaining material on fire. Add material as the fire burns hot and quickly.

My property is zoned agriculture. Do I follow the open burning rules or the agricultural burning rules?

State law views residential burning and agricultural burning as two separate issues, both with associated laws. In order to qualify an agricultural burn permit you must show evidence of agricultural activity taking place, usually in the form of supplying a copy of the IRS form Schedule F: Profit and Loss from Farming. Only those operations with proof of an agricultural operation will be issued an agricultural burn permit. The zoning regulations are local regulations and do not apply to burning applications. Areas which are zoned agriculture, but do not supply this proof, must comply with the general rule burn rules and the “burn days”.

Urban Growth Area Information

The applicable open burning regulations depend upon where the property is located with respect to the “Urban Growth Area”, or UGA. The urban growth area (UGA) is defined by a line that the incorporated cities (Richland, Kennewick, West Richland, Benton City, and Prosser) expect to grow into during the next 20 years. The UGA includes all the city limits, the “islands” of County within the cities, and some parts of County land immediately adjacent to the city limits. Those properties that lie inside of this boundary have different burning rules than those properties lying outside the boundary. If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the UGA, you can search your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304.

Regulations

Ecology’s rule on Outdoor Burning is here.

Daily Burn Decision

This information applies only to residents that live outside of the urban growth area. If you are inside the city limits of Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Benton City, or Prosser you are never allowed to burn yard debris at your residence. Also please note, that just because your property is outside of city limits, does not mean that you are also outside the urban growth area. To search whether your address is within an urban growth area, click here. You may also call the Benton County Planning Dept. or Benton Clean Air Agency for help determining whether you are inside or outside the urban growth area.

The Residential and Agricultural burn line numbers can be found in the top left corner of the page. Please call to find out the current conditions and restrictions. The daily burn decision is also available here.

The burn decision is made every morning prior to 9:00 am and is based on that day’s forecasted meteorological conditions. If necessary, the burn lines are updated to reflect the status of the burn decision. Should conditions unexpectedly change, the burn line may be updated as needed.

When making the burn decision, the BCAA utilizes information from the National Weather Service and a modeling forecast produced by the University of WA, in cooperation with the Dept of Ecology. This modeling forecast is called the “MM5” and gives a projected forecast of the atmospheric dispersion conditions, throughout the state, at different times throughout the day.

These tools are used uniformly throughout most of the state in making the daily agricultural burn decision. Forecasted wind speeds are not a primary factor in determining agricultural burn days in Benton County. Fire safety is the responsibility of the farmers. Wind warnings are given on the burn day message for surface wind speeds forecasted above 15 mph.

The residential burn decision is based on the same information used to make the agricultural burn decision. However, in consideration for fire safety and at the request of our local fire departments, wind speed is taken into consideration. When the surface wind speeds from the National Weather Service office in Pendleton, OR for the Columbia Basin are forecast to exceed 20 mph, residential burning will not be allowed. For forecasted surface wind speeds between 15 and 20 mph, a wind warning is issued.

For outdoor burning, the Benton Clean Air Agency allows burning generally only when dispersion conditions are forecasted to be good.

Bright sunny days are frequently not good smoke dispersion days and are characterized by high pressure systems. The latter characteristically has descending air masses, low mixing level ceilings, and little horizontal air movement. Known in meteorology as stable air masses, all the factors associated with these air masses combine to limit the both the volume and vertical mixing of near-surface air. Air pollutants emitted into the air under these conditions from any source, one of which may be outdoor burning, are effectively trapped and do not disperse by vertical mixing and horizontal transport at higher altitudes.

In contrast, low pressure weather systems are characterized by unstable air that is rising and frequently turbulent. Both vertical mixing with high elevation mixing levels and horizontal air movement very effectively dilute and disperse air pollutants emitted into the air.

Unfortunately, these meteorologically unstable air masses frequently have high wind speeds and gusty wind plus precipitation. High gusty wind conditions pose a fire safety hazard.

Outdoor Burning

Residential Burning Program

Under the residential burning program, only residents located outside of the Urban Growth Area are allowed to burn. Residents outside the UGA must still call the residential burn line to find out whether or not it is a burn day. The phone number is located at the top of the page, and is updated on a daily basis. You may also find the burn decision, here.

To search whether your address is within an Urban Growth Area of Benton County, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page.

If it is a burn day, and you are located outside of the UGA, the following burning rules apply:

  • Only dry natural vegetation may be burned
  • Only one pile at a time may be burned, and the pile must be extinguished before ingniting another
  • The pile must be no larger than 4 feet by 4 feet by 3 feet tall
  • The fire must be located 50 feet from all flamable structures
  • You must be in attendance of the fire at all times
  • You must not create a nuisance with the smoke from your fire
  • The use of burn barrels is prohibited

Failure to adhere to these rules may result in the issuance of a violation and/or fine.

Residents Inside The Urban Growth Area

Residents located inside the Urban Growth Area are not allowed to burn for disposal purposes.

The following types of burning are allowed inside the Urban Growth Area:

1. Burning of tumbleweeds that have blown on to your property using the following guidelines:
- You must call the burn line to see if tumbleweed burning has been banned due to high winds or fire safety
- You must not create a nuisance with the smoke
- You must be in attendance of the fire at all times
- The use of burn barrels is prohibited

2. Recreational Fires using the following guidelines:
- The fire must not be larger than 3 feet by 3 feet by 2 feet tall
- You must be in attendance at all times
- Only dry, seasoned firewood may be used; The fire cannot be used for disposal purposes
- The fire must be 50 feet from all flammable structures
- You must not create a nuisnace with the smoke
- The use of burn barrels is prohibited

3. Barbeques

4. Woodstoves

Failure to adhere to the guidelines listed above may result in a violation and/or fine.

Fees

A. An application fee for an agricultural burning permit shall be due and payable at the time of submittal of the application.

B. Upon approval of any agricultural burning permit application, the BCAA shall charge a fee at a maximum fee level as set by statute.

C. Minimum and variable fee levels are as follows:

  • Thirty seven dollars and fifty cents ($37.50) per calendar year per field burn based on burning up to ten acres or equivalent; Each additional acre is $3.75 per acre.
  • Eighty dollars ($80.00) for pile burning per calendar year per agricultural operation based on burning debris from up to 80 tons or equivalent; Each additional ton is $1.00 per ton.

The agricultural burning practices and research task force may set acreage equivalents, for non-field style agricultural burning practices, based on the amount of emissions relative to typical field burning emissions. Any acreage equivalents, established by rule, shall be used in determining fees. For agricultural burning conducted by irrigation or drainage districts, each mile of ditch (including banks) burned is calculated on an equivalent acreage basis.

For a complete breakdown of the fee schedule, click here.

Agricultural Burning Permits and Forms

Most commercial burning of agricultural fields or for agricultural purposes requires a permit from the BCAA.

Agricultural Permit is required for ..

  • Orchard or vineyard takeout
  • Vineyard prunings
  • Disease or weed control
  • Residue removal
  • Research/demonstration project
  • Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) or renovation purposes
  • “Flaming” of hop roots

Agricultural Permit is not required* for ..

  • Orchard prunings
  • Natural vegetation along fencelines, irrigation canals, or drainage ditches.
  • Tumbleweeds

*NOTE: Conversion of agricultural property to commercial or residential use, such as removal of an orchard to put in a housing development is not considered agricultural burning and is not allowed with an agricultural burn permit.

Regardless of whether the agricultural burn requires a permit, you must contact your local fire department and inform them prior to burning.

Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs)

Agricultural burning is allowed when it is reasonably necessary to carry out the enterprise. A farmer can show burning is reasonably necessary when it meets the criteria of the BMPs and no practical alternative exists. BMPs are one of the ways to demonstrate the need to burn. Growers not using BMPs must establish that their proposed burn is reasonably necessary and that no practical alternative is available. The burden of proof is on the grower, and the demonstration must satisfy the Department of Ecology and the local delegated permitting authority, if there is a local permitting authority.

Current BMP Information:

  • Agricultural Burning Best Management Practices – click here

Permit Applications

Before an agricultural burn permit is issued, an application must be submitted and processed. You will need both the permit application and a copy of one of the Best Management Guidelines documents:

The following steps describe the application procedure:

  • Fill out the application. Be specific and COMPLETE. Refer to the Best Management Practices Guidance document as necessary. Incomplete applications will not be processed.
  • Calculate the total acres/tons and fee In the space provided, write the number of acres/tons from each of the proposed burns. Add together the acres/tons of each proposed burn, this is the number of acres/tons proposed.
  • Make checks payable to BCAA. Please do not send cash.
  • Sign and date the applicant statement portion.
  • Send the application and check for the permit fee to:

Benton Clean Air Agency
526 S. Steptoe St.
Kennewick, WA 99336

Receiving Your Permit

The BCAA will act on a complete application within seven (7) days and either send to you a permit or written reason why the application has been denied. If an incomplete application is submitted, it will be returned along with the fee.

Agricultural Burning Regulations

There are three sources of agricultural burning regulations which pertain to the residents of Benton County:

What About Burning ...

… on an orchard?

Burning on an orchard is considered agricultural burning and is subject to WAC 173-430. In order to burn you must have filed a Schedule F (Profit and Loss from Farming) form with the IRS. If you have not, you may not burn for agricultural purposes and may be cited for burning in your orchard.

The same laws that govern other types of agricultural burning also regulate burning on an orchard. There are, however, some differences relating to the reasons why a particular burn is being conducted. It is important that the orchardist is well informed prior to burning on orchard lands in order to lessen the chances for enforcement action.

There are three types of burning that can take place on an orchard, each with differing requirements.

  • Crop Rotation: Tree removal with intent to replace with different tree “crop”

Orchardists who plan to change crops by removing existing trees and replacing with another tree type or a different agricultural product, will need to apply for an Agricultural Burn Permit. Burning the “old” trees are subject to the conditions on the permit and burning is limited to agricultural “burn days”.

  • Crop Removal: Tree removal with intent to change land use, for example using the land for a housing development

In many cases, orchards are converted to some other land use, such as a housing development. Since the land will no longer be used for agricultural purposes the trees that are removed cannot be burned under an Agricultural Burning Permit. However, a Special Burn Permit can be used for this purpose. The Special Burn Permit carries a non-refundable $50 application fee plus an additional fee based upon the total volume of material to be burned (maximum $8.50 per cubic yard). A Special Burn Permit application can be downloaded (PDF).

  • Orchard prunings

A permit is not needed to burn tree prunings. Prunings can be burned at any time regardless of the agricultural “burn day”. However, care must be taken so that the smoke does not impact neighboring residents. By causing impact on residents, the fire may need to be extinguished and depending upon circumstances, possible BCAA enforcement action may apply.

... on a vineyard?

After much deliberation with the WSU Cooperative Extension and with several vinyardists, it was established that vineyard prunings do not fall into the same category as orchard prunings. As such, any burning on a vineyard requires an Agricultural Burning Permit and needs to follow the general agricultural burn rules.

... on a grass seed farm?

Most grass-seed field burning in Washington State has been ended by the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology). Ecology has officially certified alternatives to grass seed field burning that are practical and reasonably available. Ecology has also determined that mechanical residue management is a viable and reasonable available alternative in most cases. Only under limited specific situations may some burning of grass-seed fields take place. For more information contact the BCAA Inspector Rob Rodger , or go to the Department of Ecology Air Program.

... “flaming” or burning hop roots?

The BCAA and the Department of Ecology considers “flaming” and the burning of hop roots to be agricultural burning. As such, this type of burning requires an Agricultural Burning permit and need to follow the general agricultural burn rules.

... for non-agricultural purposes (land-clearing)?

An agricultural burn permit can only be used in circumstances that directly affect the propagation of field crops. An example would be the burning or wheat stubble, or the removal of an orchard to plant new fruit trees. However, if agricultural purposes will be ceased on a property and the land is to be cleared for another purpose, such as a housing development, an agricultural burning permit cannot be used for this purpose and a special burn permit is required. A Special Burn permit carries a non-refundable $50 application fee plus a negotiable $8.50 per cubic yard of to-be-burned material fee. An application for a Special Burn Permit can be downloaded (PDF).

Special Burn Permit Request

Agricultural Burning Regulations

  • Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 173-430 click here

Agricultural Daily Burn Decision

When is the next burn day?

Agricultural Burn Day

Burn days are not called in advance. BCAA staff checks for forecasted air dispersion conditions, which if they meet the critieria, mean that any smoke generated from burning should be diluted enough not to impact the general population. Wind speeds are also taken into consideration when making the daily decision. If strong winds are forcasted, incidental burning may also not be allowed in addition to permitted burning.

Also, most types of agricultural burns require a permit, others do not. Be sure that you understand whether or not you need a permit. Burning without a permit may lead to enforcement actions. Please do not hesitate to contact the BCAA office for clarification and assistance.

The burn day message is updated at 9 a.m. daily; no burn day will ever start prior to 9 a.m.

BCAA Office Agricultural Burn Line: 509-783-6570 or CLICK HERE

Burning

Burning, whether done indoors for heat or outdoors for recreation, creates unhealthful air pollution. Before burning, you need to know if burning is allowed and under what circumstances. By following the rules, you will keep smoke emissions to a minimum and avoid a potentially costly fine.

Agricultural Burning
In this section learn more about:

  • Agricultural Burning Best Manage Practices
  • Agricultural Burning Rules and permits

Outdoor Burning
In this section, learn more about:

  • Outdoor burning in Benton County – what’s allowed, what’s not
  • Residential, Land Clearing
  • Alternatives to burning
  • Health effects of burning – what you should know

Woodstoves and Fireplaces
In this section learn more about:

  • Key facts about wood heating
  • Air quality requirements related to wood burning
  • Limits on visible chimney smoke (opacity limits)

Outdoor Burning Fact Sheets

Agricultural Burning

The way agricultural burning is being managed is changing in the Northwest, with Washington State leading the way. This change is part of a comprehensive revision of the state’s air pollution laws that affects not just agriculture, but many other commercial, individual and governmental activities. The Clean Air Washington Act of 1991 (Chapter 70.94 RCW) states that those who contribute to air pollution will share the job of protecting air quality.

Agricultural burning is setting fire to:

  • Crop residue after harvest in order to reduce excess plant material and hinder pest infestations
  • Fruit tree debris from orchards after pruning or tree removal
  • Cereal grain (wheat, barley, corn and oats) stubble after harvest

All agricultural burning must follow Best Management Practices. Information on these BMP’s is found here.

Questions about burning

What is “agricultural burning” and how is it different from other forms of burning?

Agricultural burning is one of three kinds of outdoor burning. Outdoor burning also includes silvicultural (forest land) burning, and “open burning” — any other kind of burning outdoors in the open or in containers. As a farm management tool, an estimated 3, 000 to 5,000 agricultural fires are set each year in Washington, with up to 600,000 acres thought to be burned. Studies show that air quality levels can exceed federal health standards in areas affected by outdoor burning, especially from larger fires, or when dispersion of smoke by the wind is poor.

The Washington Clean Air Act (RCW 70.94) protects air quality in the state. Specifically, the RCW requires agricultural permits for commercial agricultural operations that burn natural vegetation as a farm management tool. The law also requires that the grower show the burning is reasonably necessary to carry out the enterprise. Agricultural burning meeting the criteria of the best management practices (identified by the agricultural burning practices and research task force) and where no practical alternative exists automatically satisfies this requirement. For further information, also see WAC 173-430.

Other forms of outdoor burning, such as that which is done at residences within the urban areas are considered to be waste-disposal, not as a management tool. This is primarily why many forms of outdoor burning are being phased out over time.

When is the next agricultural burn day?

Agricultural burn days are not called in advance. The BCAA staff checks for forecast air circulation conditions, which if good, mean that any smoke generated from burning should be diluted enough not to impact the general population. Because wind speed considerations are not taken into account when determining an agricultural burn day, it is the responsibility of the agricultural operation to determine if it is safe to burn or not.

Also, certain types of agricultural burns require a permit while others do not. Be sure that you understand whether or not you need a permit. Burning without a permit may lead to enforcement actions. Please do not hesitate to contact the BCAA office for clarification and assistance.

The burn day message is updated at 9 a.m. daily; no burn day will ever start prior to 9 a.m.

BCAA Office Agricultural Burn Line: 783-6570 or CLICK HERE

Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs)

Agricultural burning is allowed when it is reasonably necessary to carry out the enterprise. A farmer can show burning is reasonably necessary when it meets the criteria of the BMPs and no practical alternative exists. BMPs are one of the ways to demonstrate the need to burn. Growers not using BMPs must establish that their proposed burn is reasonably necessary and that no practical alternative is available. The burden of proof is on the grower, and the demonstration must satisfy the Department of Ecology and the local delegated permitting authority, if there is a local permitting authority.

Permits:

Many kinds of agricultural burning require permits. Information about permit applications, and the regulations upon which these programs are based is found here:

Do I need a permit to burn and how do I get one?

Agricultural Burning Permits and Forms

When is an agricultural burn permit not necessary?

Agricultural Burning Permits and Forms

What about burning?:

Other Agricultural Burning

  • on an commercial orchard
  • on a vineyard
  • on a grass seed farm
  • “flaming” or burning hop roots
  • for non-agricultural purposes (land-clearing)

The Department of Ecology’s page on Agricultural Burning is here.

Benton Clean Air Agency

Benton Clean Air Agency

Burn Decision & UGA Map



Determine whether or not you may burn at your location on residential burn days

Please enter your address to determine whether you are in an urban growth area of Benton County

Notices of Violation

If I am caught burning illegally, what will happen?

Enforcement actions usually begin once the BCAA receives complaints about illegal burning taking place. One of our inspectors is sent to the site to judge the severity of the violation and to document what is going on. The Inspector will try to locate the responsible individual or company and make them aware of the violations. At this point, the fire is required to be extinguished. After the Inspector finishes at the site, one of two things happens, either a warning letter or a Notice of Violation (NOV) is issued.

Warning letters are sent out if the violation was relatively minor or if the burner was uninformed. Once a warning letter is sent, the BCAA generally considers the case closed. If there are further violations after an individual or company has received a warning letter, the enforcement action may increase to an NOV, which is a much firmer form of enforcement.

The NOV is an official enforcement action and should be taken very seriously. Essentially the NOV is a ticket that informs the burner of the laws that were violated and of the Inspector’s findings at the site. The NOV starts the process of a formal case against the burner and cannot be appealed.Thirty days after the burner receives the NOV, the BCAA may assess a penalty in another formal document called a Notice of Penalty (NOP). According to Washington State law, penalties of up to $10,000 per violation per day may be assessed. For example, burning garbage in the city limits one a no-burn day with no mean to put the fire out equates to three violations or a maximum of $30,000 fine. Generally, though the BCAA does not fine to the greatest extent of the law and actual fines can be much lower.

I have received a “Notice of Violation”. What does it mean and what do I do now?

If you have received a Notice of Violation (NOV), it means that you have violated one or more air quality regulations. The NOV serves as official notice of the laws that were violated and of the Inspector’s report on the situation. It is important that you read the NOV very carefully. The NOV cannot be appealed. However, you may send written documentation to the BCAA indicating your understanding of the situation.

Thirty days after you receive your NOV, you may receive a Notice of Penalty (NOP). The NOP is the official notice of a fine being levied against you. You may or may not receive an NOP, as one is assigned on a case-by-case basis. The NOP is appealable and several options are presented in the NOP documentation. Again, you should read the documentation very carefully.

If you have any questions, please contact BCAA.

I have received a “Notice of Penalty”. What does it mean and what do I do now?

if you have received a Notice of Penalty (NOP), it means that thirty days have passed since you received the Notice of Violation (NOV). The NOP is the official notice of a fine being levied against you. The NOP is appealable and several options are presented in the NOP documentation. Again, you should read the documentation very carefully.

Option 1: Pay the fine in full. If you take option 1, your full payment is due within 30 days.

Option 2: Consent Order (CO). (Note: A consent order may or may not be available.) The CO represents a reduced penalty that may be paid in lieu of full payment if you do not commit a similar violation within the next year. By taking the CO, you forfeit the other avenues of mitigation and appeal. Once the paperwork has been filed and signed and the reduced penalty paid (within 30 days), the BCAA considered the case closed. However, if the conditions of the CO are not adhered to, for example a similar future violation within a year, the original penalty is reinstated and an additional NOV and NOP may be issued.

Option 3: Application for Relief of Penalty (ARP). If you feel that the penalty is unjustified and wish to contest the penalty this is the option to take. It is an opportunity to tell your recollection of the events that lead to the NOV. Note, however, that if a reduction of penalty is granted, it will not be less than that offered on the CO. The ARP must be filed within 15 days.

Option 4: Appeal to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board (PCHB).
This is your opportunity to have a day in court. The PCHB is a state level hearing board that will hear the your case. The PCHB has the power to overturn the penalty issued by the BCAA. However, if you choose this option, the PCHB will be considering the full amount of the penalty, not the amount listed in the CO. In most cases, the PCHB does not lower the penalty below that offered on the CO.

If you have any questions about your NOP or your legal options, please contact BCAA.

Also note that there are several timed deadlines that you should follow. Failure to meet specific deadlines nullifies certain avenues of appeal.

Fire Protection Districts

A link to the Fire Protection District Map is here.

City/Region Fire District Phone #
Benton City BCFPD #2 509-588-3212
Benton County (East) BCFPD #1 509-734-9100
Benton County (West) BCFPD #5 509-786-1723
Finley BCFPD #1 509-734-9100
Kennewick Fire Department 509-585-4230
Patterson BCFPD #6 509-875-2029
Plymouth BCFPD #6 509-875-2029
Prosser BCFPD #3 509-786-3873
Prosser (South) BCFPD #5 509-786-1723
Richland Fire Department 509-942-7550
West Richland BCFPD #4 509-967-2945


Smoke Opacity

Smoke Opacity

State law prohibits the generation of excessive chimney smoke. Except for brief periods during start-up and refueling, smoke is in violation when it obscures objects viewed through it by more than 20%.

Generation of smoke densities greater than 20% could result in fines from air pollution control officials. Stoves operated with dry wood and a generous air supply produce less smoke and more heat.

Woodstoves and Fireplaces

Clean Home Heating

Many people don’t think of the smoke from their wood stove or fireplace as air pollution. Some people even like the smell of wood smoke. But wood smoke is one of the main sources of air pollution in Washington.

Wood smoke contains fine particles, PM 2.5, which are associated with serious health effects, as the tiny size of these pollutants allows them to be easily inhaled, bypassing the immune system and proceeding deep into your lungs, where they can cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems, including premature death.

In winter, more than half of Washington’s fine particle air pollution comes from the homes being heated using wood. Wood stoves, fireplaces and other wood-burning devices put out hundreds of times more air pollution than other sources of heat such as natural gas, propane, oil or electricity.

Video on How to Select a New Stove for Home Heat

Video on How to Operate Your Wood Stove More Efficiently

The fire: Give it air!

The right amount of air gives you a hotter fire and more complete combustion. That translates to more heat from your wood and less smoke and pollution. Here are some cleaner burning tips:

  • Build small, hot fires. Don’t add too much fuel at one time.
  • Step outside and check the chimney or flue. If you can see smoke, your fire may need more air.
  • Read and follow the stove manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Don’t “bank” the stove full of wood and damper down the air supply. This wastes wood, produces much air pollution, promotes accumulation of creosote (which requires more frequent cleaning and can lead to chimney fires) and yields very little heat. Half-full is adequate; it provides enough air space for efficient combustion.
  • Don’t damper down too far. Allow enough air to reach the wood. This varies among models and kinds of stoves.
  • Make sure your stove is the right size for your home. Too large a stove will overheat your living space. You’ll want to damper down. This causes added pollution and wastes wood.
  • Don’t burn in moderate temperatures. You’ll want to damper down, which causes more pollution and wastes wood.
  • Don’t burn when air currents carry your smoke to your neighbor’s yard or house.
  • Only burn dry, seasoned firewood, never garbage. Burning garbage is illegal in the state of Washington and creates a greater health hazard.

The fuel: keep it dry!

Wood can seem dry and still contain plenty of water, up to 50 percent. The moisture in wood makes the fire give off more smoke. On the other hand, dry wood can provide up to 44 percent more heat. It is against state law to burn wood with more than 20 percent moisture content in fireplaces or wood stoves.

Two things work very well at making sure your wood is dry enough: time and cover. Whether you buy wood or harvest your own, follow these tips to get it fire-ready:

  • Split it. The wood will dry best and burn most efficiently if the pieces are three and one-half to six inches in diameter.
  • Cover it. Protect the wood from rain and weather. Stack it loosely-in layers of alternating directions- to allow plenty of air circulation. Store it at least six inches off the ground.
  • Give it a year. Wood that has been split, dried and stored under cover for at least one year usually meets the 20 percent moisture content requirement.

State law does not regulate the dryness of any wood sold. If the seller states that the wood is dry or seasoned, consider it a claim; make sure for yourself. You—and not the seller—are responsible for the dryness of the wood you put on your fire.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I burn in my woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue on a “no burn day”?

Yes. Woodstove, fireplace, and barbecue use is unrestricted at all times. The burn day decision does not apply to these devices. The only time when use is restricted is during a statewide air pollution episode, which occurs rarely.

Can I burn paper or garbage in my woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue?

Washington State law prohibits the burning of paper, except that which is necessary to start the fire. Burning large amounts of paper is potentially very dangerous as often large burning embers exit the chimney and can cause fires outside the home. The burning of garbage is strictly prohibited by State law.

How do I know if I am burning correctly in my woodstove or fireplace?

Your woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue must be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Also, the amount of smoke produces by these devices must be minimized. The smoke coming out of your chimney should be almost colorless and thin. Thick, white or black smoke indicates that your fire is not receiving enough air. Woodstoves, fireplaces, and barbecues should be used in such a way as to minimize the impact on neighbors. Here are some additional tips:

  • Burn only dry fuel. Moist wood gives off more smoke and may produce up to 44% less heat.
  • Ideally, burn wood that has been split and dried for one year.
  • Never burn painted, stained or treated wood, colored newsprint, plastic, cardboard, garbage, diapers or magazines.
  • Twenty minutes after starting your fire, check your chimney for smoke. If you see any smoke, it probably exceeds the legal limit. Increase air to the fire for cleaner burning.
  • Burn small hot fires and allow plenty of air to reach the fire. Avoid excessive dampening to extend the duration of the burn, see The Myth of Air-Starved Burning below.
  • Never allow the fire to smolder. Smoldering fires pollute, are inefficient and are a fire hazard.

One myth, which is perhaps the most damaging to air quality and potentially damaging to health and safety, is that there are benefits to starving a wood stove for adequate combustion of air. A fire starved for air is excessively smoky because of incomplete combustion and therefore produces more unburned particulates and gaseous air pollutants than a hot fire with adequate air. Poor combustion also promotes the buildup of creosote in chimneys posing a fire hazard. Carbon monoxide from incomplete combustion can also buildup inside houses posing a direct threat of death by asphyxiation.

This myth had its origin in the 1970’s energy crisis when the popularity of wood stoves increased. Many poorly designed stoves have been marketed that are not air-tight and otherwise have poor combustion air controls. Manufacturers may have recommended, or owners may have discovered, the technique of severely restricting air flow to compensate for poor design. In addition, marginal economics and high labor requirements of wood burning have made conservation of wood a priority, which makes reducing wood consumption yet another excuse for starving wood stove fires for air.

Burning of uncured wood with moisture contents over 20% compounds the problems of poor combustion from air-starved fires by promoting even greater production of air pollutants and creosote. Burning high moisture wood decreases the usable energy from the wood because heat from burning is diverted into evaporating the water rather than heating the air as desired.

What are some of health effects from breathing smoke from woodstove, fireplaces or barbecues?*

Breathing air containing wood smoke can:

  • reduce lung function, especially in children;
  • increase severity of existing lung disease such as asthma, emphysema, pneumonia and bronchitis;
  • aggravate heart disease;
  • increase susceptibility to lower respiratory diseases;
  • irritate eyes, lungs, throat and sinuses;
  • trigger headaches and allergies.

Those at greatest health risk from wood smoke include:

  • fetuses, infants and children;
  • people with lung, heart, circulatory diseases or allergies;
  • the elderly;
  • cigarette smokers and ex-smokers.

Contents of wood smoke:

There are many components to wood smoke that can cause risk to your health. These compounds include:

  • carbon monoxide, fatal in high concentrations;
  • formaldehyde, a possible cause of human cancer;
  • organic gases which may interfere with lung function;
  • nitrogen oxides, linked to hardening of the arteries;
  • tiny smoke particles that lodge in the lungs causing structural damage. These tiny particles, or PM10, are less than 10 microns wide, or about 1/7 the diameter of a human hair.

What if my neighbor’s woodstove or fireplace is producing a strong, foul odor?

The primary cause of foul odors from woodstoves and fireplaces is the burning of green wood. Because green wood contains so much water, it does not burn efficiently and essentially just smolders. Smoldering fires are not hot enough to destroy the bulk of the odors. The solution to such a problem is to burn well-seasoned, dry wood in a hot fire, with lots of air. If you are bothered by a neighbor’s smoke, you should contact the BCAA office or file a complaint

What are the restrictions on buying or selling a used woodstove or fireplace in Benton County?

Since July 1, 1992, only EPA certified wood stoves and fireplace inserts may be legally sold or installed in Washington. There should be a metal tag permanently affixed to the device that will indicate EPA certification. According to Washington State law and BCAA Regulation 1, it is illegal to advertise to sell, offer to sell, sell, bargain, exchange, or give away an uninstalled used uncertified fireplace or woodstove. If you have any questions, please contact the BCAA.

A list of EPA certified woodstoves can be found at the Washington State Department of Ecology Air Program website

Alternatives to Outdoor Burning

Non-Burning Alternatives are available and many residents choose to chip or compost this material to use in their yard and garden. Others may haul their “clean green” to a local recycling transfer station or to a private collection company.

Instead of burning your yard debris, why not try an alternative. The following is a list of several that are available.

Composting

Want bigger, brighter, fuller flowers and county-fair-sized vegetables? Try composting your garden and yard debris. Nothing beats adding compost for soil enrichment. And if you think composting is just a fad of the ’90s, here’s and interesting fact: a Roman statesman named Marcus Cato introduced composting as a way to build up the soil of ancient Rome more that 2,000 years ago. In-the-know gardeners will tell you that nothing makes their gardens grow like a great homemade compost. Creating a balance of wet, “green” materials (such as grass clippings, certain food scraps, and various kinds of manure and dry, “brown” materials (the dry leaves and woody materials that you might previously burned!) creates the perfect compost. The “browns” are really carbon-rich materials and the “greens” are nitrogen-rich products that work together with microbes to build a soil-enriching compost for your garden. Need some more convincing reasons to compost?

Here’s a list of some of the great benefits of composting:

  • Composting is a perfect alternative to open (backyard) burning
  • Composting saves space in the landfill
  • Composing enriches the soil and turns out better plants and vegetables
  • Composting is convenient. Just think, the time and energy you now expend to bag and haul all your garden debris to the trash can, landfill, or transfer station can be turned into a useful product.
  • Composting saves money (less money spent on leaf bags, fertilizers, mulch, bagged compost, peat moss, or other soil enhancements).

For more information on backyard composting, call the Washington State University Cooperative Extension or the Benton County Solid Waste Department (see Resources below) or check out the BCAA Composting flier by clicking the burning tab at the top of the page and then scrolling to the bottom.

Make Your Own Mulch

Mulch is a protective covering for your plants, shrubs, and trees that truly benefits your garden. When it’s spread in garden beds or under shrubs and trees, mulch reduces evaporation, maintains even soil temperature, prevent erosion, controls weeds, and enriches the soil. You can make your own mulch by chipping “brown: or carbon-rich yard debris. Call the Washington State Cooperative Extension or the Benton County Solid Waste Department (see Resources below).

You can find out more information by viewing the BCAA Mulching flier by clicking the burning tab at the top of the page and then scrolling to the bottom.

Use a Mulching Mover for a Healthy Lawn

If you leave “mulched” grass on your lawn instead of burning the clippings, you’re doing your grass, yourself, and the environment a favor. Don’t worry, because this finely chopped grass has a temporary mulching effect but rapidly decomposes to return valuable nutrients to the soil. Together these benefits of a mulching mower help your lawn hold water and reduce fertilizer costs. Over time, the soils in our hot, dry climate become healthier simply from the added organic matter. Perhaps the best benefit is that you spend less time handling grass clippings. You can buy a mulching mower for the same cost as comparable non-mulching mowers and some models even have a mulch/no mulch/bagging option.

Chipping

Large quantities of woody vegetative material from yards, gardens, other landscaping features, or land- clearing can be turned into a useful product. The resulting wood chips can be used for a number of purposes. For more information, check out the BCAA Chipping flier by clicking the burning tab at the top of the page and then scrolling to the bottom.

Landscape Management

In our region, most people prefer irrigated lawns with trees, shrubs and grass for the benefits they provide: cooling, fire protection, and aesthetic environment. If you can incorporate some of the following ideas into your landscaping, you may lessen your yard debris:

Reduce or limit the number of trees and shrubs you plant

  • Plant varieties that minimize debris
  • Plant low-residue plant and native varieties that thrive in our grow zone
  • Consider planting a xeriscape – an urban landscape that decreases yard waste and conserves water as well. In xeriscapes, native or arid-zone adapted plants produce minimum residue and rely on natural rainfall only.

Use the Landfill

Disposing of your yard debris in a landfill is also an alternative to burning. This is especially true for people who can’t take advantage of composting, making mulch, mulching mowers, or installing low-residue landscaping. In other parts of the state, landfill space is at a premium, but in our region, landfill space is not currently a concern. However, disposing as recyclable yard debris in the landfill is an option that should be used only as necessary as a substitute for open burning.

Resources

Washington State University Cooperative Extension
Master Gardener Program
Tri-Cities (509) 735-3551
Prosser (509) 786-2226

Benton County Solid Waste Department
Tri-Cities (509)783-1310 ext 5682
Prosser (509)786-5611

City of Richland
Environmental Education Coordinator
505 Swift Blvd, Richland, WA 99352
(509) 942-7730

City of Kennewick
Solid Waste Environmental Division
210 W 6th Ave, Kennewick, WA 99336
(509) 585-4317

Burning Detail Questions

... tumbleweeds blown on to my property?

Tumbleweeds that have been blown on to your property can be burned at any time, regardless of the burn day and regardless of whether you are inside or outside the Urban Growth Area (UGA). However, only the tumbleweeds can be burned, any other vegetative material to be burned is subject to the rules specific to your location.

... tumbleweeds that are growing on my property?

If the tumbleweeds are growing on your property, you cannot burn them in place.

If tumbleweeds are actually growing on your property, you must obtain a special burn permit in order to burn the tumblewweds in-place. Be aware that therer is a fee charged for a special burn permit. You may want to consider an alternative to burning such as mulching, mowing, or composting. However, you may also want to try to control the weeds before they become a problem by mowing or using a commercial herbicide. For more information you can download a flyer on tumbleweed burning here (PDF).

... in a woodstove, fireplace, or barbecue?

At the present time, in Benton County, there are no restrictions on when you can use your woodstove, barbecue, or fireplace. However, you must burn properly to minimize the impact of smoke on your neighbors.

... for recreation (campfire or bonfire)?

As of April 13, 2000, the definition and rules about recreational fires have changed. Recreational fire means [by definition] cooking fires, campfires, and bonfires using charcoal or firewood that occur in designated areas or on private property for cooking or pleasure purposes (WAC 173-425-030). Fires used for debris disposal are not considered recreational fires. For more information you can download a flyer on recreational fires here (PDF).

Inside the UGA: Recreational fires that are larger than three feet in diameter and two feet high require a permit. Permit conditions may limit the date and time burning is allowed. Recreational fires smaller than 3’x2’ are allowed at any time, regardless of the “burn day”, and do not require a permit.

Outside the UGA: Recreational fires are allowed at any time and do not require a permit.

... in a burn barrel?

As of April 13, 2000, the use of the traditional metal burn barrel is illegal throughout the State. This was done primarily to make the state rule consistent with the Uniform Fire Code.

If you feel that you must use a system similar to the burn barrel, waste disposal is still allowed in an outdoor burning device. This device must be constructed of concrete or masonry with a completely enclosed combustion chamber and a permanently attached iron spark arrester (max 1/2 inch holes). The device can only be used to dispose of natural vegetative debris. Paper, garbage, wood products, and other prohibited materials are illegal to burn.

... construction debris on my property?

The burning of construction debris is prohibited by state law, WAC 173-425-050(2), and by BCAA Regulation 1 Article 5 Section 5.02E. Because of the significant amount of prohibited materials found in construction fires of the past, BCAA Regulation 1 strictly prohibits any fire from occurring on a construction site. This includes the burning of vegetative debris and the burning of tumbleweeds. Burning illegally on a construction site will likely result in a violation and fine.

... on my small/hobby orchard?

Small hobby farms and small orchards are also subject to burning rules and regulations. If the farm or orchard sells what it produces and files a Schedule F with its income taxes, the farm is considered to be a commercial operation and is subject to the agricultural burning rules. All other farms and orchards are considered to be non-commercial. As with residential burning of yard waste, the location of the property is important.

Because outdoor burning have been substantially banned within the UGA, there are no “burn days” per se that farms and orchards may use for waste disposal. The only option available for farms and orchards within the UGA is to apply for a Special Burning Permit. Please contact us for information and details.

Outside the UGA, a farm or orchard can burn its dry, natural vegetation as long as there is a burn day. Burn day status is available by calling 946-4489. However, the farm cannot clear fields and steps must be taken to minimize the impact of the smoke on neighbors. Failure to comply with these additional restrictions could result in enforcement action.

If there are any questions concerning burning on hobby farms and orchards, please contact us.

... on a lot or area that is a fire hazard?

Brush and weeds on a piece of property can be considered a fire hazard. However, you will need to have your local fire department come to your property and declare it a fire hazard. In addition, the fire department must agree that burning the material would be the safest way to eliminate the hazard; in most cases alternatives, such as mowing, are equally effective. If the fire department determines that the fire hazard would be reduced by burning, then the BCAA will issue a permit to burn the material.

Frequently Asked Questions about Outdoor Burning

What are some alternatives to burning?

Information on Alternatives to Burning is here.

My residence is inside the Urban Growth Area (UGA) of Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Prosser, or Benton City, can I burn?

The Washington Administrative Code (WAC) required that residential and land clearing burning in urban growth areas of cities larger than 5,000 be banned as of January 1, 2001. For cities smaller than 5,000, such as Benton City, outdoor burning was allowed until January 1, 2004. However, as of January 1, burning is now banned in the UGA of Benton City as well. Recent changes in the State law have further defined what types of burning can or cannot take place within the urban growth areas. Based on these changes, the following is a summary list of the applicable rules for burning in the urban growth areas of Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Prosser, and Benton City.

If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the Urban Growth Area (UGA), you may search your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304 .

PROHIBITED

  • burning yard debris (leaves, branches, etc.) at your property
  • transferring material from Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Prosser, or Benton City to outside the UGA for the purpose of burning the material
  • the use of burn barrels
  • burning for land-clearing purposes
  • burning tumbleweeds that are growing on your property
  • burning garbage, dead animals, asphalt, petroleum products, paints, rubber products, plastics, paper (other than what is necessary to start the fire), cardboard, treated wood, construction debris, metal, or any substance (other than natural vegetation) which when burned releases toxic emissions, dense smoke, or odors.” (WAC 173-425-050(2))

ALLOWED WITH A PERMIT

  • burning a recreational fire greater than 3 feet in diameter.

ALLOWED WITHOUT A PERMIT

  • burning a recreational fire that is less than 3 feet in diameter
  • burning tumbleweeds that blew on to your property

Can I burn? My residence is outside the Urban Growth Area.

If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the UGA, you may search your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304.

If you have confirmed that your residence is outside of the urban growth area, you may burn under the residential burning rules.

In 1995, the Washington State legislature changed some of the burning rules and how they were applied in different parts of the State. For those residents outside of the UGA, the following rules apply:

PROHIBITED

  • burning garbage, dead animals, asphalt, petroleum products, paints, rubber products, plastics, paper (other than what is necessary to start the fire), cardboard, treated wood, construction debris, metal, or any substance (other than natural vegetation) which when burned releases toxic emissions, dense smoke, or odors.” (WAC 173-425-050(2))

PROHIBITED AS OF JAN 1, 2001

  • the use of burn barrels

ALLOWED ON A BURN DAY You must have a burn day before you may burn. The burn message, updated by 9 AM, is 509-783-6198.

  • Only material generated at your residence can be burned.
  • Only dry, natural vegetation can be burned. Burning paper (other than enough to start fire), plastic, lumber, building debris, and garbage is strictly prohibited.
  • Someone must be in attendance of the fire at all times and be able to put out the fire if necessary.
  • No fires are allowed within 50 feet of any flammable structure.
  • The pile size is limited to 4 ft by 4 ft by 3 ft high.
  • Only one pile can be burned at a time. Continually feeding material into one fire is OK.
  • The fire must be extinguished if it creates a nuisance.
  • You can only burn at your residential property or the property owner’s permission must be obtained prior to burning.
  • Your fire must be completely extinguished by the end of the burn day.

ALLOWED WITH A PERMIT

  • burning for weed abatement (including tumbleweeds growing on your property)
  • burning a recreational fire greater than 3 feet in diameter.

What is an “Urban Growth Area” and how do I know if my residence is inside or outside?

The applicable open burning regulations depend upon where the property is located with respect to the “Urban Growth Area”, or UGA. The urban growth area (UGA) is defined by a line that the incorporated cities (Richland, Kennewick, West Richland, Benton City, and Prosser) expect to grow into during the next 20 years. The UGA includes all the city limits, the “islands” of County within the cities, and some parts of County land immediately adjacent to the city limits. Those properties that lie inside of this boundary have different burning rules than those properties lying outside the boundary. If you are unsure as to whether you are inside or outside the UGA, you may search for your address here.

You may also call the Benton County Planning Department at 736-3086 (Tri-Cities) or 786-5612 (Prosser), or contact our office at 783-1304.

Urban Growth Area Maps are here.

I can’t meet some or all of the burn rules, is there another way I can burn legally?

Many of the burn rules are, in many cases, restrictive by design. By creating these rules, the State can reduce the amount of burning taking place in the urban areas, reducing both air pollution and fire risk. However, there are circumstances where the BCAA can allow an individual or company to burn outside of these rules.

A Special Burn Permit may be issued under specific circumstances. The permit has an associated fee that is assessed in two parts. First, there is a $75 non-refundable application fee that must accompany the written application. This allows the BCAA Inspector to process the application and if necessary, inspect the materials to be burned prior to burning. The application can either be accepted or rejected at this point. If accepted, there is an additional charge of no more than $8.50 per cubic yard of material to be burned. The fees must be paid within 30 days of the permit being issued. A permit is issued that is specific to the applicant’s type of burning. The permit conditions often will allow more “burn days” than would be available under the urban are spring and fall burn windows.

If you would like to apply for a Special Burn Permit, the application is Special Burn Permit