We do love our wood fires in the South Sound.
We savor the crackling sound and romantic atmosphere they create in our fireplaces. We enjoy the camraderie of gathering around an outdoor fire pit on a chilly evening. And we really like how burning wood can take the chill off the house on a cold night without running up the utility bill.
But that love affair is getting us a bad reputation. The unusually high number of people who burn wood – for whatever reason – is a big reason the Seattle-Tacoma-Olympia metropolitan region ranks 18th on the American Lung Association’s list of U.S. communities with the highest fine-particle pollution, which can pose a serious health threat to people with asthma and heart conditions.
It’s also why the greater Tacoma-Pierce County area is the state’s only “nonattainment area” – which means it persistently exceeds federal Environmental Protection Agency air standards. And unlike the lung association’s ranking, the EPA’s formal designation comes with consequences.