Twenty below zero. That was the record breaking low in Klamath Falls, Ore. this weekend. Temperatures are higher this week, but have remained below freezing.
Wood smoke is one of the leading causes of fine particulate pollution, and in Klamath Falls, a blanket of cold stagnant air has trapped that pollution close to the ground, triggering an air quality health alert.
As a result, people found burning wood in stoves or fireplaces face a warning and, on a second violation, a fine of up $720.
Jim Carey, the Air Quality Coordinator for Klamath County, says the county makes exceptions for families who need their stoves to stay warm. “I know in some cases, their gas or electric heater just isn’t doing the job, and it’s still cold in their house,” Carey says. He expects the wood stove ban will remain in place for several more days due to stagnant air conditions.
Klamath Falls is one of a handful of cities in the Northwest that frequently violates EPA health standards for fine particle pollution due to wood smoke pollution. Tacoma, Wash. and Oakridge, Ore. are also on the list.
Klamath County health officials say that between 2008 and 2011, they helped residents replace 391 residential wood stoves with clean-burning models. But the state of Oregon has been pushing for more aggressive measures to tackle the problem. Oregon now requires home sellers to remove outdated wood stoves when they put their house on the market, and the state is suing the EPA over its regulation of residential wood stove pollution.