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The ban coincides with warmer weather when there is potential for poor air quality and drought. During hot, dry weather periods, Maryland’s forests and meadows are vulnerable to fires. These weather conditions can also cause poor air quality, especially for high concentrations of ozone pollution. To reduce the risk of fires and bad air episodes, the open burning ban will be imposed through September 1. The MDE ban is in effect in the following counties: Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert, Carroll, Cecil, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George’s.
“The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) does its part to protect our citizens from health threats during the summer dry periods,” said MDE Secretary, Kendl P. Philbrick. “This is part of our plan to protect and restore the environment.”
“The MDE state ban was initially imposed in areas of the state that were non-attainment for ozone,” says Brian Hug, of MDE's Air Quality Planning Program. “We actually take credit for the burning ban in our State Implementation Plan.”
State Implementation Plan
A State Implementation Plan (SIP) is a documented strategy implemented by a state to achieve cleaner air and meet federal health standards for air quality. Maryland’s SIP includes many initiatives to improve air quality, including the seasonal burn ban, the Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program, and vapor recovery nozzles at gasoline stations, to name a few.
Not Feeling the Burn
The ban restricts the open burning of leaves, yard debris, and trash to prevent smoke and emissions of volatile organic compounds, which can contribute to ozone formation. The local fire departments where the MDE ban is imposed see the benefits of the ban in preventing wild land fires.
The MDE ban does not apply to the outdoor cooking of food or to recreational campfires. However, the Maryland Forest Service or Department of Natural Resources may impose separate bans for open burning at parks and other woodlands if conditions necessitate a ban to protect woodlands. Preventing forest fires also protects air quality as smoke from wildfires contains fine particle matter with numerous chemicals and compound groups that can enter the lungs and pose a threat to human health.
Where there’s Smoke…
Smoke from a wildfire can travel great distances and affect the population over an extended area. The National Interagency Fire Center, which compiles wildland fire data from all federal and state fire agencies, reports that of the more than 66,000 wildland fires in 2005, over 58,000 were caused by humans.
“Parts of Maryland were recently designated non-attainment for fine particulate matter,” Hug explains. “We are considering a proposal to ban open burning year-round and statewide to meet attainment for particle pollution. Banning the burning of trash, leaves and wood debris prevents the release of soot and other air pollutants associated with open burning.”