Wood Burning restriction issued as air quality worsens; first mandatory limit of 2019-2020 season

December 3, 2019

Stagnant air and pollution has created unhealthy air in the Portland Metro area, leading health officials this morning to issue a mandatory wood burning restriction to residents in Multnomah County. Conditions are expected to persist at least through tonight.

Beginning at noon, Tuesday, Dec. 3, homeowners, renters and businesses may not use fireplaces, unapproved wood stoves or pellet stoves or any outdoor wood burning devices until the burn restriction is lifted. Multnomah County residents can check the Winter Wood Burning Restrictions Page for updates.

“Winter wood smoke is a major contributor to air pollution, with significant harmful impacts to people who are vulnerable like small children, seniors and people with respiratory or heart conditions,” said Environmental Health Director Jae Douglas, Ph.D. “As we head into the holidays, please be mindful of  those folks in our community who really suffer from poor air quality, and wait to burn wood until conditions improve."

Some burning is allowed in the following cases:

  • If wood is the household’s sole source of heat.

  • If household income is 60 percent or less than the Oregon median income.

  • In the event of a power outage, service interruption or shortage cuts off a primary source of heat.

  • If food is being cooked with a charcoal grill, smoker or wood-fired oven.

To apply for an exemption, visit multco.us/woodsmokestatus, call 503-988-0035 or email woodsmokecomplaints@multco.us.

This is the first time a mandatory burn curtailment has been called this season under an ordinance passed in January 2018 by the Board of County Commissioners. The County called two red days during last year’s season.

The fine particulate matter created when wood burns is a leading cause of wintertime air pollution in Multnomah County, and the ordinance helps protect people who are most vulnerable to poor air quality. Current conditions are considered ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’ such as children, the elderly, and those with heart and lung conditions. 

Track air quality on the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s Air Quality map.

Officials at Multnomah County Environmental Health began conducting daily forecasting in cooperation with the Department of Environmental Quality and the National Weather Service to identify potential poor air quality days. The seasonal wood burning ordinance is in effect each year from Oct. 1 through March 1. 

When conditions suggest an upcoming inversion (cooler air trapped below warmer air) along with pollution, Multnomah County may announce a burn restriction, which remains in effect for 24 hours unless an extension is warranted.  

When air quality and weather are very bad, a dial posted on the website will point to Red — “Burn restriction.” When air quality and weather suggest moderately unhealthy conditions, a dial posted on the website will point to Yellow — “Voluntary burn restriction.” The county has called 14 voluntary burn restriction days so far this season.

When conditions are normal, the dial will return to “Green’’ for no restrictions.

Stay Informed


Report a suspected violation of a mandatory burn restriction to Multnomah County Environmental Health: