Outdoor Air Quality - Smoke

Summit County Environmental Health recommends various strategies for reducing air quality impacts from smoke.

Open Burning

With the large amount of forest in Summit County and the impacts of the Pine Beetle, responsible property owners are having to make decisions about how to get rid of slash waste. One possible method is to burn the slash in place. This can create an air quality problem as well as a fire control concern. For these reasons Environmental Health and the local fire authority must issue permits for any open burning. Application forms can be obtained from the fire districts (Red White & Blue, and Summit Fire & EMS). The state of Colorado also has this Open Burning fact sheet available for more information.

To promote efficient burning and reduce smoke emissions, follow these guidelines:
  • Assure that all material is dried to the greatest extent possible.
  • Loosely stack or windrow the material to eliminate dirt from the pile and to promote an adequate air supply to the burning pile.
  • Build piles that are at least as tall as they are wide.
  • Do not include wood larger than 6 inches in diameter or stumps in the pile. These materials are likely to smolder and produce large amounts of smoke.
  • As a pile burns down, move unburned and smoldering material from the perimeter of the pile into the center of the fire.
  • Burn on days with moderate winds or during heavy snowfall, as this provides good smoke dispersal.
  • Do not ignite material when a thermal inversion is present. Inversions are unlikely after 10 a.m.

Wood Burning Fireplaces & Stoves 

Burning of wood has the potential of creating particulate matter that can be a nuisance for neighbors and may even cause respiratory symptoms for some. For these reasons all new stoves installed must be EPA Phase II approved devices. Environmental Health encourages all homeowners with older stoves to upgrade to EPA Phase II stoves as well as we all work together for better air quality. Even the best stoves will produce smoke if good burning tips are not practiced.