Daily Burn Decision
This information applies only to residents that live outside of the urban growth area. If you are inside the city limits of Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, Benton City, or Prosser you are never allowed to burn yard debris at your residence. Also please note, that just because your property is outside of city limits, does not mean that you are also outside the urban growth area. To search whether your address is within an urban growth area, click here. You may also call the Benton County Planning Dept. or Benton Clean Air Agency for help determining whether you are inside or outside the urban growth area.
The Residential and Agricultural burn line numbers can be found in the top left corner of the page. Please call to find out the current conditions and restrictions. The daily burn decision is also available here.
The burn decision is made every morning prior to 9:00 am and is based on that day’s forecasted meteorological conditions. If necessary, the burn lines are updated to reflect the status of the burn decision. Should conditions unexpectedly change, the burn line may be updated as needed.
When making the burn decision, the BCAA utilizes information from the National Weather Service and a modeling forecast produced by the University of WA, in cooperation with the Dept of Ecology. This modeling forecast is called the “MM5” and gives a projected forecast of the atmospheric dispersion conditions, throughout the state, at different times throughout the day.
These tools are used uniformly throughout most of the state in making the daily agricultural burn decision. Forecasted wind speeds are not a primary factor in determining agricultural burn days in Benton County. Fire safety is the responsibility of the farmers. Wind warnings are given on the burn day message for surface wind speeds forecasted above 15 mph.
The residential burn decision is based on the same information used to make the agricultural burn decision. However, in consideration for fire safety and at the request of our local fire departments, wind speed is taken into consideration. When the surface wind speeds from the National Weather Service office in Pendleton, OR for the Columbia Basin are forecast to exceed 20 mph, residential burning will not be allowed. For forecasted surface wind speeds between 15 and 20 mph, a wind warning is issued.
For outdoor burning, the Benton Clean Air Agency allows burning generally only when dispersion conditions are forecasted to be good.
Bright sunny days are frequently not good smoke dispersion days and are characterized by high pressure systems. The latter characteristically has descending air masses, low mixing level ceilings, and little horizontal air movement. Known in meteorology as stable air masses, all the factors associated with these air masses combine to limit the both the volume and vertical mixing of near-surface air. Air pollutants emitted into the air under these conditions from any source, one of which may be outdoor burning, are effectively trapped and do not disperse by vertical mixing and horizontal transport at higher altitudes.
In contrast, low pressure weather systems are characterized by unstable air that is rising and frequently turbulent. Both vertical mixing with high elevation mixing levels and horizontal air movement very effectively dilute and disperse air pollutants emitted into the air.
Unfortunately, these meteorologically unstable air masses frequently have high wind speeds and gusty wind plus precipitation. High gusty wind conditions pose a fire safety hazard.