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No more outdoor burning in Freeland, fire official warns

Progress has its price, Freeland. Put out those fires.

Thanks to its recent designation as a Non-Municipal Urban Growth Area (NMUGA), Freeland joins Coupeville, Langley and Oak Harbor as areas in Island County where outdoor burning is all but banned permanently.

Only small, recreational fires such as those used to roast hotdogs, burgers and marshmallows are permitted within the boundaries of the NMUGA, which stretches from the other side of Highway 525 to Holmes Harbor and encompasses downtown and the residential areas surrounding it.

“No yard-waste fires, no burn barrels, no permit burning, no brush clearing,” said Jerry Beck, Island County Fire District 3 fire prevention officer. “We were just informed about it a few days ago.”

The outdoor burning ban is part of a state law, passed more than a decade ago, that has been phased in to reduce toxic emissions.

According to the Northwest Clean Air Agency, the last provision to take effect bans outdoor burning permanently within designated urban growth areas.

Freeland was designated a NMUGA by Island County commissioners as part of the process that resulted in adoption of the Freeland Sub Area Plan.

The Freeland plan was adopted as a prerequisite to any future efforts to incorporate.

A map of Freeland’s NMGUA can be found at the Web site http://www.nwcleanair.org/pdf/aq.

Programs/outdoorBurning/maps 2008_freelanduga.pdf.

“There’s no burning inside the red lines,” Beck said.

More information about the county’s urban growth areas can be obtained by calling the Island County Planning Department at 360-679-7339.

Meanwhile, for the first time in history, there may be mandatory burn bans in other parts of Whidbey Island this winter if air quality deteriorates, a clean air agency official warned recently.

Tighter health standards in regard to pollution particulates may prompt enforceable bans in Island, Skagit and Whatcom counties if weather conditions warrant, the Northwest Clean Air Agency said.

If a mandatory ban is in effect, violations could mean $100 to

$300 fines for the first offense, and more for subsequent offenses, said Laura Curley, an agency spokeswoman.

“We haven’t had to call burn bans in the past,” Curley said, “but if we have a ban, our inspectors will be in the field.”

She said that in the past, island residents have been urged to voluntarily restrict indoor and outdoor burning during air pollution advisories, when stagnant weather traps smoke, increasing the chances of health problems.

But in 2008, the state Legislature, to conform to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency revisions, lowered by nearly half the air-quality level required for installing a mandatory burn ban.

The former level was 65 milligrams per cubic meter of fine particles (2.56 milligrams or smaller). The new level is 35 milligrams per cubic meter, Curley said.

Households with no other source of adequate heat are allowed to burn during a mandatory ban, but they are required to follow all other wood-stove rules, Curley said.

Temporary burn bans will continue to be called by local fire officials during periods of high fire danger. In Island County, call 800-622-4627, ext. 4 for the current status.

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