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Rec fire action tabled

By Staff | Jun 17, 2008

Any further discussion or action was placed on the back burner at Monday’s Estherville City Council meeting in regard to recreational fires and open burning restrictions.

Gordon Forsyth, city attorney, shared information with the council and interested citizens.

Forsyth’s law office complete pertinent research for Mayor Lyle Hevern, city council and city staff follows:

“You asked our office to conduct some research regarding the exception to open burning laws, specifically, the use of recreational fires in backyards in residential portions of the city.

“We have researched the many ordinances of communities throughout the state, both large and small, and did find that there is a great diversity in the amount of regulation by cities.

The examples include:

“Decorah, which bans recreational fires except in city parks at approved burning locations.

“Mason City, which allows recreational burning with untreated dried wood not less than 1 5/8 inches in diameter.

“Clear Lake allows recreational burning if the fire is attended and has a garden hose or other means of extinguishing the fire readily available and the fire must comply with the emissions of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

“Spencer allows open burning for cooking, heating and recreational fires. These fires must be charcoal; clean dry untreated unprocessed wood; natural gas or propane.

“Mount Vernon allows recreational burning only upon a permit from the city fire chief. Several communities state that a fire cannot emit dense smoke or noxious fumes, gases, soot or cinders in unreasonable quantities.

Forsyth proceeded with some notes for consideration with regard to the possibility of proposed ordinances or amendments to the recreational burning ordinance.

“Location. There are several factors concerning location. To prevent fires from being too close to neighboring properties the possible requirement of the location of the fire pit can be no more than X number of feet from the property line.”

The city attorney also stressed council consider requiring a defined fire pit.

“That the pit be a defined area either below ground or on the ground with non-combustible boundaries or a suitable container. Or above ground fire pits which are designed for recreational burning use should also be allowed.”

Forsyth noted that if the ring must be cleaned at regular frequencies, it would prevent the accumulation of non-combusted materials.

“Fuel should be limited to clean dry untreated unprocessed wood, charcoal, natural gas or propane. This prevents the necessity of having a laundry list of items which are not permissible to burn. These are covered by other portions of our ordinance regarding the ban on burning of garbage and landscape waste.”

The attorney said another point to ponder are hours of use. “It was pointed out to me that smoke, ash and cinders can be just as obnoxious at 4 in the afternoon as they are at 4 in the morning and extinguishing an existing complying fire would increase the amount of smoke, ash and soot emitted in putting it out,” he explained.

“There’s no perfect solution.”

Also discussed was attendance at the fire which presents several different issues.

“What constitutes attendance or how close, etc. We feel that having a fire in a defined confined space somewhat alleviates concerns of the fire spreading which would require constant attendance. The council may wish to consider having the residence where the fire is located be occupied at all times while the fire is burning. Burning could, of course, be banned at any time by proclamation due to extreme drought conditions by the fire chief or mayor.”

Forsyth suggested a minimum of $200 fine be adopted for non-complying fires.

Estherville City Administrator Steve Woodley suggested council table the agenda item until the next meeting on Monday, July 7.

“There is a lot to think about. Maybe you want to add information or narrow it down.”

Hevern asked those in the audience if there was any comment.

One individual asked if there was any chance that council would ban recreational fires all together.

“City council can do what it sees fit and they will discuss all of this at the next meeting,” Forsyth said.

Hevern added that indications from the past is that city council was not wanting to totally ban recreational fires.

Rec fire action tabled

By Staff | Jun 17, 2008

Any further discussion or action was placed on the back burner at Monday’s Estherville City Council meeting in regard to recreational fires and open burning restrictions.

Gordon Forsyth, city attorney, shared information with the council and interested citizens.

Forsyth’s law office complete pertinent research for Mayor Lyle Hevern, city council and city staff follows:

“You asked our office to conduct some research regarding the exception to open burning laws, specifically, the use of recreational fires in backyards in residential portions of the city.

“We have researched the many ordinances of communities throughout the state, both large and small, and did find that there is a great diversity in the amount of regulation by cities.

The examples include:

“Decorah, which bans recreational fires except in city parks at approved burning locations.

“Mason City, which allows recreational burning with untreated dried wood not less than 1 5/8 inches in diameter.

“Clear Lake allows recreational burning if the fire is attended and has a garden hose or other means of extinguishing the fire readily available and the fire must comply with the emissions of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

“Spencer allows open burning for cooking, heating and recreational fires. These fires must be charcoal; clean dry untreated unprocessed wood; natural gas or propane.

“Mount Vernon allows recreational burning only upon a permit from the city fire chief. Several communities state that a fire cannot emit dense smoke or noxious fumes, gases, soot or cinders in unreasonable quantities.

Forsyth proceeded with some notes for consideration with regard to the possibility of proposed ordinances or amendments to the recreational burning ordinance.

“Location. There are several factors concerning location. To prevent fires from being too close to neighboring properties the possible requirement of the location of the fire pit can be no more than X number of feet from the property line.”

The city attorney also stressed council consider requiring a defined fire pit.

“That the pit be a defined area either below ground or on the ground with non-combustible boundaries or a suitable container. Or above ground fire pits which are designed for recreational burning use should also be allowed.”

Forsyth noted that if the ring must be cleaned at regular frequencies, it would prevent the accumulation of non-combusted materials.

“Fuel should be limited to clean dry untreated unprocessed wood, charcoal, natural gas or propane. This prevents the necessity of having a laundry list of items which are not permissible to burn. These are covered by other portions of our ordinance regarding the ban on burning of garbage and landscape waste.”

The attorney said another point to ponder are hours of use. “It was pointed out to me that smoke, ash and cinders can be just as obnoxious at 4 in the afternoon as they are at 4 in the morning and extinguishing an existing complying fire would increase the amount of smoke, ash and soot emitted in putting it out,” he explained.

“There’s no perfect solution.”

Also discussed was attendance at the fire which presents several different issues.

“What constitutes attendance or how close, etc. We feel that having a fire in a defined confined space somewhat alleviates concerns of the fire spreading which would require constant attendance. The council may wish to consider having the residence where the fire is located be occupied at all times while the fire is burning. Burning could, of course, be banned at any time by proclamation due to extreme drought conditions by the fire chief or mayor.”

Forsyth suggested a minimum of $200 fine be adopted for non-complying fires.

Estherville City Administrator Steve Woodley suggested council table the agenda item until the next meeting on Monday, July 7.

“There is a lot to think about. Maybe you want to add information or narrow it down.”

Hevern asked those in the audience if there was any comment.

One individual asked if there was any chance that council would ban recreational fires all together.

“City council can do what it sees fit and they will discuss all of this at the next meeting,” Forsyth said.

Hevern added that indications from the past is that city council was not wanting to totally ban recreational fires.