Burn barrels banned

"First the good news: The rules for outdoor burning just got simpler.Now the bad news, at least for people who like to burn things: The only materials legal to burn in Island County are leaves, grass, tree branches, and other natural vegetation. And you can't burn any of it in a metal barrel.Earlier this year, the state Department of Ecology began enforcing a new phase in outdoor burning controls proposed by the agency last year. While many of those controls affect only large cities and their urban growth areas, rural Island County and its cities must adhere to two new rules:*The only legal fuel for outdoor fires is natural plant material. Until this spring, it had been legal to burn unpainted, untreated wood building materials. *Also out the door are burn barrels which historically have been a fixture for hundreds of South Whidbey property owners.Mike Cotton, a captain with Fire Protection District 3, said he can see why burn barrels are now forbidden. District personnel often respond to burn complaints that involve the barrels. Because materials in a burn barrel do not get good air circulation, they give off more smoke and particulate matter than an open blaze. Those particulates can lodge in human lungs and have been linked to medical conditions from asthma to lung cancer. Cotton said the barrels also hide illegal burn materials, such as plastics, metals, and household trash.Because the Island County Sheriff's Office is responsible for enforcing the Ecology burn rules, Cotton said he can only educate local citizens about what they can and cannot burn. In fact, he has already started. On Thursday morning, Cotton responded to a possible structure fire. When he discovered that the blaze was actually construction debris, he told the contractor working on site that the practice is now illegal.Sheriff Mike Hawley said his agency will take the education route, too. He said most people have not heard about the new burning restrictions, so deputies will give informational warnings when responding to most illegal burn complaints. However, people who habitually burn illegal fuels can expect a fine if deputies have to visit them again and again.This will just add to the list of what we investigate, Hawley said of the rules.For more information about the new burn rules, call the Island County Sheriff's Office at 321-5111 or the Northwest Air Pollution Authority at (360) 429-1617."

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