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Free burn permits going away, to be replaced by $30, all-year variety

Starting Jan. 1 King County Fire District 28 will no longer issue free, three-day residential burn permits, but instead will charge residents $30 – but the permit will be good for a year.

The department is working to educate the public and get the word out.

Homeowners on the Enumclaw Plateau like the option to burn the tree limbs that blow down during wind storms and the brush they cut back from their property, and Fire Chief Joe Clow and Capt. Randy Fehr said since there is currently no other viable alternative, they want to continue to provide that option to residents. The department just hopes to recover some of the cost it takes to send engines and fire fighters out to investigate each burn when it’s reported. King County District 28 covers approximately 80 square miles.

When someone spots smoke, the department responds.

“We have to go when there’s a call,” Clow said.

“We don’t want to take away people’s right to burn,” Fehr said. And, Clow added, fire fighters don’t want to see brush and limbs pile up, creating a fire hazard because owners don’t want to pay to haul it to a transfer station for disposal.

“This is one of the few remaining areas in King County where people can burn outdoors,” Fehr said.

The fire department has issued 500 permits to individuals this year.

Each permit allows a resident to burn natural vegetation in a 10-foot by 10-foot area no more than 4-feet high, but the three day window is limiting, especially if the weather is bad. There are other restrictions that deal with proximity to structures and property lines, safety, materials, size of limbs, air quality and weather. Each permit comes with a list of do’s and don’ts and a handout from Puget Sound Clean Air.

According to the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency Web site, fines for illegal fires typically start at $2,000 plus the cost to reimburse the fire department for its response efforts. When in doubt, call ahead to the local fire department or visit the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency Web site at www.pscleanair.org.

The Enumclaw permit program will take some of the hassle out of waiting for the right day for residents and will also help firefighters create a better database to quickly check when calls are received. They will always respond, it will just give them some background before they go.

King County Fire District No. 28 residential burn permit applications will be available at the fire station, 1330 Wells St., during business hours, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. The department also plans to have the permitting process available online by Jan. 1.

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