2011 Aug. 29: IL Geneva: City council discussed regulation of Fire Pits: Opinion: July 29 to Aug. 14 2011 COMMENTS on All Fire Pits should be banned (in Chicago suburbs):
See all Jeff Ward: Notes on West Suburban Civilization articles
What about kids not able to breathe clean air in their own home, yard or neighbourhood? Studies show that people who heat their homes with wood have more respiratory problems than those that don’t. Smoke particles also invade neighbouring homes. Research shows that children in wood burning neighbourhoods
are more likely to have lung breathing problems. (from Focus on wood Smoke Pollution – Washington of Ecology)
As long as any wood burning appliances are legal you can do all the research you want before you move anywhere and then one day you can be on the other side of the toxic emissions coming from your neighbour’s wood smoke trespassing and polluting the only air you have to breathe.
Joe, I AM INSIDE. I can’t even open my patio door or bedroom window on cool evenings because of the smoke from my neighbor’s backyard portable pit. I hate the damned things.
A “recreational fire” is part of American culture. Unfortunately, fires in a neighborhood where houses are close together can be irritating. Do you have a right to a fire? Do I have a right to fresh air? Your rights end where mine begin and my rights end where yours begin. Who determines where your rights end and mine begin? Your elected officials.The reason we have rules and regulations created and enforced by Municipalities is because people demand it. They demand it because of the neighbor who has a fire going almost every night and a Garage sale every weekend. You can be sure the reason a City official is measuring a mail box or writing a ticket for a sign on a parkway is due to a complaint by someone who is threatening to sue the city because the sign obstructed his view and caused an accident. Codes, rules and regulations are necessary because courteous behavior is rare these days and people are ignorant.
Let’s consider this scenario. To my wife’s chagrin, I have 33 guitars and, though Keith Richards has nothing to worry about, a pro quality VHT 100 watt amp. I’ve only played it at 50 watts for a few minutes at a time because you can hear it half a mile away at that volume. If I turned it to 100 watts I bet half of Geneva could hear it.
I would love to play it that loud on a regular basis because let’s face it, if you can’t play well you may as well play loud. But if I, or one of your neighbors did that, you folks who rail against the nanny state would be the first to call the cops.
How is that different than bombarding your neighbor’s house with smoke?
If fire pit folks all acted like Mr. Miller, we’d all be fine. But in this culture, despite the fact that we’re generally stacked on top of each other, we want to do what we want to do when we want to do it.
Sorry folks, but that just doesn’t cut it. If people were truly respectful of their neighbors, this wouldn’t be an issue. But the irony is, the folks who complain they can’t use their fire pits will be the first ones to call the police when their neighbors step over that invisible line.
If you talk to your neighbors and explain about your asthma, and they continue to smoke you out despite the fact it can physically harm you, you have problems that a fire pit ordinance won’t fix.
Remember! I wrote about it because the Geneva conversation had gone on for 4 months. Not even my more political stuff has that kind of life!
As much as I personally regret giving up yet another of our links to the out of doors, whenever there’s a debte of this kind I always fall on the side of the natural state of affairs. In this case, that’s clean air–and the need for clean air supercedes the recreational aspects for those of us who wish to burn leaves and enjoy fire pits. [For those of you who want to point out that fire too, is
part of nature, I’ll concede to a provision that authorizes the use of fire pits
that are ignited by lightning.]
Please let me stipulate that barbecues are not a problem.
First, 80 percent of them are of the gas variety, charcoal burns far cleaner than wood, and their smoke output is about 1 percent of a reasonably sized fire pit.
We’re talking about an issue that generated 4 months of Patch conversation. Children playing, lawn mowing and other somewhat silly examples would never generate that kind of pro and con debate.
I wholeheartedly agree Melanie. You sound like a great neighbor.
Unfortunately the opposing argument applies as well: Would it really kill you to do without ______ if it makes your neighbor ill? Finding a balance is the challenge that many neighbors are unwilling to do. When the balance is too out of whack, unfortunately that’s when govt has to step in with blanket controls. Fortunately, the process is reversible if it’s important enough.
Geoff, I’m sorry you feel that way but I can understand some of the reasons. There’s no doubt that we need to keep govt under control and I don’t trust it to always make the ‘right’ decisions (ie the ones I agree with). But let’s never error on the side of blaming the govt for everything or we’ll have true anarchy. Read the post from STC Transplant below for a hint of how your comfortable life might begin to turn ugly. I don’t want the ‘freedoms’ that allow my neighborhood to be turned into an all-night bar and flophouse. Yes, I would likely be forced to move from such a neighbor as you suggest; why then should you not also be ‘forced’ to move to a place where firepits are better tolerated. Government (especially in this instance) is not some boogey man…it’s us, your neighbors. The decisions that it reaches either come from the people or can be changed by the people. You say we should be tolerant of each other yet you don’t appear to be tolerant of the majority of your neighbors when a govt ruling goes agin’ what you think it should be. Tolerance works BOTH ways.
Well, Melanie, I guess I could ask the same question of you. Would it kill you to provide some other dessert for your kid so I could have my window and patio door open to enjoy the cool evening air???
For me the issue is the overall degradation of civility in our culture. I welcome a city, county or other local “enforcement” agency’s strict application of codified “rules of civility.” My neighbors regularly burn wood AND garbage (boxes, containers with plastic etc.) in a “fire pit” 10 feet from the property line. Dark smoke fills our yard.
Should I talk to them about it? Maybe, but the burning is just one item on a long list of selfish, uncivilized, often illegal behaviors. There’s no chance I can effect any change in their overall behavior. Should I try? We have police and public officials EXACTLY so I don’t have to be the enforcer.
Other issues with my neighbors: five to seven pickup trucks parked on and around the property, piles of collected scrap metal in the front yard, late night pool parties, indecent behavior, shouting swearing and fighting, loud car stereos, trash left at the curb for days, a cycle of vagrants and temporary residents sleeping on floors or in some cases in the yard… Granted – this is an extreme case, but thank goodness I’m not the one who has to ENFORCE standards of civility.
Honestly, as far as I can see they aren’t enforced at all. I’d be pleased if the police and city were 100x more strict! To say that those offended should just “live with it” or “stay indoors” is ridiculous. We all share a responsibility to show respect to our neighbors yet we haven’t the means or the power to enforce this in others. Thank goodness for regulations!
One of the justifications for govt is to act as an arbiter for the common good. We’re all in favor of that it seems until it affects us personally in some way. This issue, as petty as it seems, is an example of how our governments must act in the presence of the increasingly crowded lifestyles that we choose. In an ideal world, we could sit down with neighbors and work things out. Unfortunately, we often expect the other person to be become more reasonable.The fact is, whether it’s due to health concerns about smoke (leaf burning, second-hand smoke laws, and now firepits), noise (as Jeff points out) or even light pollution, your precious rights end where mine begin and neither of us has more, or less, than the other.
The balance of the debate may continue for some time, and that’s good. If it should remain strong (indicating a substantial number of people being adversely affected), I’ll keep to my opinion that the more natural condition of clean air supports the rights of those protecting their health and I would hope that my govt would support that view.
So true Gregory! Perhaps you could write an article on your efforts concerning coal-fired plants.
Unfortunately there are (is?) a multitude of issues that need our attention. Each of us chooses to address those issues as we feel the need, and the empowerment, to do so. [If I finish my beans I don’t
really think it prevents some child in China or Africa from starving to death.] That doesn’t mean that we close our eyes, or noses in this case, to what’s happening in our own backyards.
If and when the problem gets bad enough that a majority of people oppose them, or it’s shown that a significant minority is harmed (not inconvenienced) by them, yes.
I happen to enjoy firepits. However I can see how they might be a health hazard to some. If, at some point, our population were to consist of say 30% or more of asthmatics to whom smoke is a threat to their health, I would consider it a small sacrifice to turn in my firepit. I choose not to live in a gated community, but if I did I would have to follow the rules about curtains and lawn maintenance. It’s all a matter of choice and degree.
My point exactly, DHD. I wouldn’t mind the occasional fire in the neighbor’s backyard, but it’s frequent and lasts HOURS, well into the night. From past experience, they are the type of people who are not approachable. Talking to them about it would only “ignite” (pun intended) the situtation.
Gee, Melanie, just a bit ago you were asking if it would kill me to keep my door and windows shut while you enjoy making smores with your kid. Now you’re talking about finding more and more arrogant people who think they have unlimited rights to a certain space in a neighborhood, etc. Got a mirror??
You can have my firepit when you pry it out of my cold, dead hands! ??
C’mon folks. This isn’t a threat to your basic constitutional rights. We try to choose communities where we live that match our own values as much as possible. Then we pay our taxes to receive police and fire protection, receive water and sewage services, garbage pickup etc. And each community has laws about curfews, parking on streets overnight, speeding in your car in school zones, etc. This is just another of those issues.
Jeff has continued a discussion presumably motivated by his own perspective of health issues. If it were to be determined that these health issues were indeed significant shouldn’t we all, including those who shout for tolerance, be willing to forego such a small thing? Instead we’re so jealous of our own comfort that we immediately go to battle mode.
There have been multiple calls that this is an issue to keep between neighbors. Guess what? In this day and age, the voices of this electronic media are your neighbors and my civic govt is made up of my neighbors. Let’s please extend to this process the kind of friendly discussion and open-mindedness that we say we want.
Some of you folks have talked about this being an example of over-reaction, of throwing the baby out with the bathwater…and then proceed to lambast and blame government for (enter your pet peeve here). There is a LOT to not like about our govt, no question about it. But as bad as things may appear now, the only hope for improvement will come through our governmental process and that only through calm and respectful discussion leading to compromise. We can hardly expect that of our leaders if we can’t do that for ourselves in a discussion on firepits.
Yes, Geoff, thanks to you and to your nephew for your service.
The point that I had hoped to make was that criticism and complaining has little effect except for further alienation of the parties involved and that active participation in a solution is preferable. Lacking that, I suggested that, rather than relying on the actions of others, we are better off focusing on contolling our own actions and feelings to maintain our sense of well being. I’d be interested to know what part of this you or Jim disagree so strenuously to.
Thank you, Jeff, for writing this insightful and thoughtful article, and for looking into this issue with such an open mind. More information on the health and environmental impacts of wood burning can be found on the websites of organizations like the Lung Association, which advises people to avoid burning wood in order to help keep the air clean and healthy, on the information website of the non-profit group Families for Clean Air, and many other sites, as research into the health effects of wood smoke pollution continues to grow. As the American Lung Association has pointed out, over 25 years of research has concluded that wood smoke is harmful, especially for people most at risk, including children, the elderly, and people with existing heart and lung problems. As you mention, there are alternatives to outdoor wood burning, which are considerate of others in neighborhood environments. Thanks again for your excellent points, so well-expressed.
– Regarding alternatives to wood fire pits, I’d like to please add that, indoor wood burning fireplaces are themselves also a serious issue in neighborhoods, and organizations like the American Lung Association, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the Washington Dept. of Ecology, and others, also recommend that people consider less polluting alternatives to those as well, to help protect air quality and public health.
Wood Smoke Pollution is a burning issue…
Whether it is from a forest fire, agriculture burn, camp fire, fire pit, backyard burning or residential wood burning appliance, old or new, they all have one thing in common, they all emit toxic emissions.
Like cigarette smoke, residential wood smoke contains hundreds of dangerous air pollutants, gases and fine particulates that can cause cancer and other serious health problems such as: blood clots, heart attacks, strokes, lung disease like asthma, emphysema, pneumonia, and bronchitis; irritation of the lungs, throat, sinuses and eyes; headaches; allergenic reactions; increased hospital admissions and even premature death. The particles in wood smoke are too small to be filtered by the nose and upper respiratory system, so they wind up deep in the lungs and act as vectors for bacteria, toxins and virus. Wood smoke is more than a nuisance, wood smoke is chemically active in the body 40 times longer than cigarette smoke.
Wood smoke contains hundreds of dangerous air pollutants and gases such as: Particulate Matter 2.5 Carbon monoxide, Sulfur dioxide, Nitrogen oxides, PAHs (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons) VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) Dioxins, Furans, Benzene, Lead, Cadmium, Arsenic, and many other harmful substances.
Is it not time to take this chronic, severe form of Air Pollution seriously and protect the health
of everyone ?
Melanie, I’m always puzzled by this argument. Are you suggesting that because there are bad things in the world that we shouldn’t try to correct any of them?
Our discussions need to center on the pros and cons of the issue, not on reframing the validity of the issue. Any time I de-value an issue that is important to you, in effect I’m saying that my opinion is more accurate or more important than yours. Introducing a different issue as being more important creates this impression.
Finally, by your own logic, with the relatively little time of good weather that we enjoy in this area, why should we be subjected to the woodsmoke that others choose to create?
When people cannot open their windows for fresh air or enjoy their own outdoor area due to a neighbor’s fire pit then the line has to be drawn. How did it get to this point? I think most would admit that the issue evolved to this point because of uncaring burners who think that because they are burning on their own property that they have the right to do so. They are so very wrong! They have no right to foul the air of others. They, themselves, have brought things to the point where bans will fall into place. I guess they just never thought of this while they were smoking up the neighborhood with toxics.
The answer is yes. Why should anyone be able to take another person’s breath away? We only have one source of air to breathe and if it is polluted by wood smoke
that crosses property lines how fair is that. Many people also suffer from the toxic emissions from their neighbour’s wood burning appliance in the winter.
Most people do not report wood smoke pollution instead they suffer in silence thinking that it is only a nuisance not realizing that it is a severe health hazard. Residential Wood Smoke Pollution (RWSP) makes people sick and kills many.
The American Environment Protection Agency estimates that the lifetime cancer risk from wood smoke is 12 times greater than that from an equal volume of second hand cigarette smoke. (The Health Effects of Wood Smoke, Washington State Department of Ecology);
Studies show that people who heat their homes with wood have more respiratory problems than those who don’t. Smoke particles also invade neighbouring homes. Research shows that children in wood burning neighbourhoods are more likely to have lung and breathing problems.(From Focus on Wood Smoke Pollution – Washington State Department Of Ecology)
Most people who have come to care about the problem of wood smoke pollution in residential areas, and who are concerned about its adverse effects on health, air quality, and quality of life in neighborhoods, have experienced the issue first hand. Some have suffered greatly, from being forced to breathe unwanted fire pit, wood burning fireplace, or wood stove smoke. It might be hardest for people to understand who have never had any breathing or lung problems, but for anyone who is sensitive to smoke, having to breathe neighborhood wood smoke really isn’t something to be taken lightly. Particulate matter has become for many scientists, physicians, and researchers, a subject of great importance, as it is one of the pollutants of greatest concern from a public health perspective. Wood smoke is comprised of up to about 90% fine particulate matter, and residential wood burning is a major contributor to fine particle pollution in neighborhoods. Just like cigarette smoking bans now common in most public places, wood smoke needs to be addressed in the same way, and for the same reasons – to protect air quality, and to protect the health of people, especially of those most vulnerable to smoke exposure.
@TDS I am glad you have posted this comment because as you point out you can avoid things that aggravate your asthma. If wood smoke stayed in the person’s property that lit a fire that would fine so then the toxic emissions wood stay and contaminate their air only but it doesn’t instead it pollutes the air of others.
Being exposed to a neighbours wood smoke pollution is the same as exposure to a chain smoker. Mmm… how fair and healthy is that?
The best thing to do is to talk with the firepit neighbor. Tell them about your breathing difficultiy (or your family member’s) Some people will be sympathetic and stop burning, some will argue about their “rights” but in the end, they usually comply with your wishes (especially if you implicitly subtly imply that the town fire dept will be called, or they can even be sued ) but that’s only a last resort.
Melanie C, your car has sophisticated pollution controls. Your wood burning fire pit does not. In fact, the effluent from that wood fire is giving off more particulates and carbon monoxide than a hundred cars. I’ve measured car exhaust, lawn mower exhaust pipes (one foot from the pipe opening) with a particulate counter and CO meter. One wood-burning fire pit, even giving out no visible smoke, is orders of magnitude worse than a modern car. Lastly, your car and mower serve a useful purpose. Your fire pit serves no purpose at all.
In reply to Jeff’s question: The Greater Good always prevails over “freedom.” For example, do drivers have a “right” to drive drunk?
The problem in this country is that some people have this silly notion that they have unlimited freedom granted by God himself. That is completely illogical. You cannot have such vast freedom, or else civilization itself could not exist. The reason is that almost everyone has some degree of immorality (we are not free from sin, if you happen to take the religious viewpoint)
So there must be rules. Fair rules, yes. But rules just the same. (imagine a football game with no rules – what sort of organized game would that be?)
I think it is always good to hear both sides of any story. If anyone would like to learn more about the issues surrounding Residential Wood Smoke Pollution (RWSP) then please check out www.canadiancleanairalliance.ca and burningissues.org
I’d like to point out that concern over wood smoke pollution is about far more than merely disliking fire pits – at issue is the protection of air quality and health. Should non-smokers should have to develop a tolerance for someone’s taste for smoking, and then demonstrate tolerance for that taste/activity, by not objecting if someone lights up a cigarette near them, or their family? Wood smoke is similar in composition to cigarette smoke, and the fine particles in wood smoke cannot be kept outside of nearby homes, even with doors and windows closed.
That wood smoke is harmful is no longer in any dispute, as science has shown that it certainly is, and exposure can cause problems even for otherwise healthy people. I think the question is really, how much longer will communities have to wait until people have protection from this preventable source of pollution? Some communities have already begun taking the issue of wood smoke seriously. The City of Fort Collins, Colorado, for example, in its official website, strongly encourages citizens to avoid burning wood. I hope it won’t be long before more people across our society start to understand the reasons why organizations like the American Lung Association caution against wood burning, and I hope that more people who currently burn wood will consider less polluting alternatives, which now even include more environmentally-friendly options like realistic and clean-burning gel or ethanol flames.
You are incorrect sir! My memory may be incorrect, but I believe Rick N. massaged my title a little on this one. Though it happens more often on Patch, columnists rarely get to choose their own headline.
Then, my point was to get a reasonable discussion going about exactly what it means to be a neighbor. As so many folks here have pointed out, they can barely speak with their neighbors because the folks next door can never be “wrong” about anything.
And this has been, for the most part, a reasonable debate. I’m proud of the majority of responders and thrilled at the tone and general civility on both sides.
While I certainly saw the possibility of the small vs. big government discussion, that was not my intent. I really wanted readers to think about what it means to peacefully coexist when proximity is an issue.
A lesser point was to get a handle on what the Patch cities are already doing about fire pits.
That said, after all these responses, no one’s really answered my question! If you get to regularly use your fire pit, do I get to play my 100 watt amp whenever I want?
Thanks for helping to get this issue out there. Where I live all outdoor burning is banned. For me the issue here is to help educate people on this severe health hazard and hope that more people will think twice before lighting their next fire like Melany C. Burning wood is an option…breathing is not!
In a neighborhood environment, using a fire pit even one or two times a year can present a public health risk since, for residents at a special risk from wood smoke (including seniors, expectant mothers, asthma patients and young children) even brief exposures can be hazardous . . . and that health risk can multiply, as other fire pit owners in a neighborhood use their own fire pits, one or more times every year.
I think it’s a common stereotype that people with breathing issues have brought their conditions on themselves ( – even so, if someone is, say, an ex-smoker – don’t they still deserve the right to breathe clean air, after making the decision to live a healthier life?) Many people are also sensitive to irritants like wood smoke, through no fault of their own, including many people who have heart or other respiratory concerns, or conditions like asthma. About 9 million of America’s asthma sufferers are children.
More information about how wood smoke can impact people with breathing concerns can be found online, by googling terms such as “wood smoke asthma” or “wood smoke health effects”, etc.
The problem is the smoke produced by any wood fire pit, which doesn’t stay confined to the fire pit owner’s own property.
For Rudy. I had put this discussion to rest on my end but your response is very misguided. Studies show that people who heat their homes with wood have more respiratory problems than those who don’t. Smoke particles also invade neighbouring homes. Research shows that children in wood burning neighbourhoods are more likely to have lung and breathing problems.(From Focus on Wood Smoke Pollution – Washington State Department Of Ecology)
Please Rudy tell us all how the lungs of a brand new baby coming home from the hospital that is subjected to the toxic emissions from a neighbour’s fire pit for many days throughout the summer how have they abused their lungs. Wood smoke crosses property lines and invades the only air that people have to breathe, I ask again how neighbourly and how fair is that. Most days in the summer the air is stagnate and wood smoke therefore stays in the air in neighbourhoods for days.
Mo you are so right!. Check out the warning label on Firemaster Old Fashioned FIREPLACE WOOD.
The warning label says Combustion of this product results in the emission of Carbon Monoxide, soot and other byproducts which are known by the state of California to
cause cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm.
Despite the warning it is labelled as Premium Quality, Clean & Dry, Easy Lighting and 100% Natural.
I’m reminded of this old SNL spoof:
With respect Vicki, you’d made your point very well before this. I think what a lot of folks here really object to is someone telling them what’s good for them. You’ve supplied some great facts on the dangers of woodsmoke to help educate us all and to make better decisions. I’m afraid that this latest post will only add fuel to the fire for those who resent being told what’s ‘good’ or ‘bad’. I prefer to rely on a “majority rules” argument that can encompass all sorts of reasons.
Most people have no problem accepting cigarette smoking bans in restaurants and other public buildings, but many seem unwilling to make the same connection when it comes to the right of people to breathe wood smoke-free air, right in their own homes and backyards. . . . Like a lot of people, my family and I first discovered how wood smoke really is just as harmful as cigarette smoke – not only by reading the growing number of studies and research now available online, but through personal experience: our health was affected by fire pit, wood stove, and wood fireplace smoke in our neighborhood.
Often it’s hard for residents in a smoke-impacted area to tell where the smoke is coming from, especially if it’s at night. . . . Sometimes, smoke can be coming from more than one property at a time, and the pollutants in wood smoke can travel long distances, and remain airborne a long time.
And when someone bothered by smoke asks a neighbor to please stop burning wood, it’s not always enough; some people will insist on continuing to burn – as some of the previous responses in favor of residential wood burning show. I think this is why bans are needed in communities, just as smoking bans are required in restaurants.
Yes Terry, very well stated. I would add that the internet has not only improved our ability to get information but it’s deluged us with bad information as well. “Expert” no longer has the definitive effect in our lives that it once did.
I think this accounts in part for the attitude of some folks.They reject any information as suspect and react solely to the underlying feeling that someone is telling them what to believe…. Of course many others know that burning wood creates pollution (duh) and just don’t care what effect it may have–they just want to do what they want to do. That’s where the “majority rules” factor comes in.
For more facts please see buringissues.org I am with the canadiancleanairalliance.ca
I agree, since I have been looking into woodsmoke pollution I am amazed at how much misinformation is out there and how much information is buried in the sand.
Roger I understand that the issue of being told what to do is at the heart of why some people don’t want bans or strict bylaws on any wood burning appliance but for me when a neighbour pollutes the only air that I have to breathe and education doesn’t work well then what other option are you left with.
Just like cigarette smoking and all the bans surrounding it. I hope that some people
will think twice before they light their next fire and for me that will be my contribution to this subject.
Vicki, I wasn’t referring to the ensuing laws; I was referring to a strategy of trying to elicit support for a cause based on “I know what’s good for you.” As I said, you’ve contributed some great info; the post I replied to seemed to stray from presenting information to a tone that was a bit condescending. I apologize if I’ve misunderstood.
I am sorry if it came across like that but it was not my intention. What I was trying to do was educate people as I was educated when I saw the warning label on firewood. I truly believe that the more know about wood smoke pollution the less likely people will want to burn. I think the warning label is part of the overall education.
I have talked to my neighbours and most people do. It is usually the first thing we suggest people do. The last time I tried to talk to my neighbours she who is a school teacher told me to f off and die. We used to be friends.
Like the Energizer Bunny, this story just keeps on going…as it should.
Wow…some interesting conversation to say the least. But given the serious nature of this topic, let us all really try and focus on the health implications of wood smoke trespass. Although Jeff’s article deals with the issue of fire pits, we are here to tell you that all wood burning devices are toxic predators. Ours happens to be a behemoth of an outdoor, short stacked masonry fireplace. Much to our dismay, we live in a town where size matters…it wasn’t always this way.
In addition, we are continuously being deluged by the same neighbor’s indoor fireplace, not 15’ away from the outdoor fireplace. Our neighbor actually rotates between the two, sometimes even burning both at the same time. For all of you disbelievers, when the law or code allows, some people will exploit it to the extreme. Get down on your knees and hope that this never happens to you! Sadly, similar stories like this are occurring all over our nation. For us, it seemed like it happened overnight.
To clarify, we live here in DuPage County, IL and our neighbor’s chronic behavior has gotten the best of us. Our lives have been made absolutely miserable and our physical and mental health has suffered in more ways than we can count. We are unable to enjoy our beautiful garden and yard, and on several occasions, we have even been forced to evacuate our home due to the overwhelming amount of toxic wood smoke.
Over the course of two years, we have tried talking to our neighbor. But when one spends tens of thousands of dollars on their pleasures, they are unlikely to acquiesce. We have called the police department on numerous occasions to try and obtain relief. When an officer arrives, they usually spend the first 20 minutes trying to interpret the air pollution code, sometimes we even need to assist and hand them a copy. The police department does not have the experience or expertise for dealing with this type of situation.
Additionally, our air pollution code guidelines contradict the building code for this type of wood burning device, yet our village continues to allow detached masonry fireplaces to be built in overwhelming numbers. We have even been told by our Community Development Department, that fighting this issue would be an uphill battle. We are bringing forth a complaint that our village does not know how to handle…most don’t. As a result, the authorities try to blame the victim, rather than admit that they are ill equipped or incapable of handling residential air quality problems. We are starting to get the distinct feeling that because so many wood burning devices exist in this town, officials simply don’t want to “fan the flames.”
The portable version are legal in DG. It’s the permanent ones that aren’t.
I talked to Fire Marshall Mike Gill who told me you cannot have an in ground fire pit in DG! I suppose he could be wrong, but I think someone gave you incorrect information. Please call him, he’s a really nice guy.
I had a hard copy of the ordinance, but recycled it because the column has already run!
I’m guessing the smaller ones are allowed because they have nowhere near the capacity of the in ground version. When my neighbors use their portable pit, I barely notice. When the other ones use their in ground pit it’s pretty powerful.
Thank you, Mr. Vollrath for your rather insensitive remark. If only you could live a day in our shoes. It is obvious that you have not spent anytime looking into the adverse health effects of wood smoke, even though several women commenting on this article have provided you with some excellent resources. Look…if a burner could surround them self in a glass box, on their own property, then we as neighbors would not have to be the bearer of unbidden toxic wood smoke and there wouldn’t even be an issue. Unfortunately, this is not the reality.
We will be making the effort to supply Jeff Ward with a few pertinent scientific articles and reports. There are literally thousands that are available. I suggest you start reading. Then, perhaps you could comment more intelligently and contribute to a real solution instead of merely spouting big government banter.
We think you are giving human nature and the expectation for individuals to behave in a judicious manner too much credit. After all, we are descendants of the cave man, with an insatiable desire to burn, built directly into our DNA. Unfortunately, cavemen lived relatively short lives. Sure, maybe their demise was due to the saber tooth tiger, or difficulty finding food, perhaps it was disease,(no health care back then), or maybe, just maybe…it was all that wood smoke!
Today, we are fortunate to live in a more sophisticated and advanced world. We now know through scientific evidence that even low levels of wood smoke exposure can be detrimental to human health, in particular to infants and young children. Dioxin, one of the most toxic substances known to mankind is a major component in wood smoke. According to the U.S. National Toxicology Program, there is no safe level of dioxin exposure.
If someone wishes to impact the health of their own family by burning in close quarters, that is their own unfortunate choice, but to inflict harm and discomfort to a neighbor(s), is in our view, an unspeakable choice. May we also remind you, that recreational wood burning is becoming an epidemic spreading across the country due to increased outdoor living popularity. Residential wood burning now accounts for more than 30% of the black carbon particulate pollution in the U.S. today and that number continues to rise.