August 3, 2010

Fire request sets off heated discussion

City fire officials are turning up the heat in a bid to win the right to douse any fires in town that they deem a nuisance.
“We’re just looking for something really simple,” Fire Chief Jon Pose said.
The Fire Department wants a legal change that would allow senior fire officers who determine a blaze presents a problem – from smoke or embers –to order it doused.
The request, however, has sent sparks flying.
The Ordinance Committee, which is pondering the request, is wary about handing off the power to firefighters to put out backyard fires that are burning in a controlled setting.
Tom Conlin, a city attorney, said he’s concerned about handing over the power to put out campfires, bonfires and other controlled fires merely because a fire official deems it a possible nuisance.
He said he would prefer any new law include a more defined, measurable standard.
It isn’t clear what that standard could be. Click here for the full story.

A midnight ban on outdoor fires?
City leaders are eyeing the possibility of banning open fires after midnight.
City Councilor Cliff Block said that officials are thinking of declaring a midnight curfew for burning campfires, bonfires, outdoor fire pits and the like,
There is no time limit now for most fires.
Brush can only be burned from sunrise to sunset, officials said, so they are thinking of making it so that nothing can be burned outside between midnight and sunrise. Click here for the full story.

Update: The story that appears on the Press website has an error that city Councilor Kevin McCauley pointed out. Here is the correction:

BRISTOL – The Bristol-Burlington Health District regulates the open burning of brush, not bonfires, as a story in Tuesday’s paper incorrectly stated.
There is a possibility that bonfires may also be regulated, but for now at least they are not.
City Councilor Kevin McCauley, who heads the Ordinance Committee, said Tuesday that the first step in the process for burning brush is to get a permit from the health district.
That permit needs to be put on file with the city fire marshal’s office.
On the day that someone wants to burn the brush, they must contact the Fire Department for specific authorization, which will be granted or not depending on weather conditions, McCauley said.
The department doesn’t want to take a chance that it could turn into a wild fire or brush fire, said McCauley, a city firefighters.
The Ordinance Committee is considering the possibility of permits for bonfires, McCauley said, which would likely be processed through the Fire Department alone.

Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at


Anonymous said...

So when will we be issued uniforms? Home of the free and the brave? While I can understand that some people are careless, many are not. Life is a risk, stop trying to regulate it.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps they can put Coucnilman/Fireman Kevin McCauley in charge of this?

Anonymous said...

You have got to be kidding!! This is what we are worried about in this town?

Anonymous said...

Should we have permits to use our fireplaces in our homes as well? Not understanding the difference of using my home fireplace and the smoke it emits v's a fire pit burning in my backyard? Please someone help me understand this?

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that Pose is a bit over his head, out of his head or both. What do you think?

Anonymous said...

Kevin McCauley, your next mayor.

Poboy said...

"Should we have permits to use our fireplaces in our homes as well? Not understanding the difference of using my home fireplace and the smoke it emits v's a fire pit burning in my backyard? Please someone help me understand this?"

Your indoor fireplace has a chimney and its height is dictated by building codes to be high enough to emit smoke away from peoples' breathing air. Outdoor fires emit smoke at ground level, where people are.
Outdoor open burning can be a health and safety hazard if not done properly.
1) Improper fuel, that is household trash, furniture plastics etc. are often found in these backyard fires. Green wood and leaves that emit unacceptable levels of smoke are also found.
2) Unfavorable weather conditions such as high winds or even steady gentle wind can cause nuisance smoke to downwind neighbors. Excess humidity can cause smoke to bank down in low areas and cause health problems.
3) Unsafe practices such as fires being too close to structures or vehicles can create hazardous conditions.
4) Excessively large fire loads are often encountered that a homeowner couldn't control if it got out of hand.
I could go on. I can't believe Kevin and John never brought up these points and more. When the fire dept. receives a complaint, it respond, sizes up the situation and resolves the problem accordingly. That may mean leaving the fire alone, advising the homeowner how to burn safely or put out an unsafe or unhealthy fire. Many times these complaints are from people downwind from the fire. It may be fine at the source of the fire but smoke may be entering peoples' windows downwind. Other times a concerned citizen will see flames and call in a fire of unknown origin.
Please stop and think before throwing out knee jerk reactions . Pose is right about one thing. Common sense should prevail.

Anonymous said...

As usual, a bunch of idiots who haven't a clue. I can tell you that I have a neighbor that CONSTANTLY burns wood next door and we're not talking small fires either. These are HUGE!!! I have to keep my windows closed otherwise my house will smell like smoke. They have people over their house to "enjoy" these fires until late at night. I'm middle aged so I'm not some old fuddy duddy, but this is ridiculous!

Thank God someone finally is doing something. Apparently the six people who have posted here have not had to experience what I experience nearly every day from spring into late fall. Try walking in someone else's shoes before you speak. We need an ordinance to define exactly what is acceptable and what is not.

to poster 3:23: there is a different when you have smoke emitting from a chimney which is at least 40 feet from the ground discharging up and out versus having smoke emitting from ground level directly into someone's backyard. I'm sorry, but your rights end the minute they cross over into my property. I'm sure you wouldn't want smoke constantly flowing into your home not to mention the adverse affect the smoke has on those people who have asthma or COPD or emphysema or any number of breathing issues. Thank you for listening to us, ordinance committee.

Poboy said...

Took me about 10 minutes to find this. It is from Cobb County Ga. Fire Marshall's office.
Common sense, not rocket science.
C'mon Kevin and John, can't you come up with anything?

Types of Fires Allowed All Year

Certain types of fires are allowed all year, even during the burn ban, as listed below.

* Recreational fire means an outdoor fire in which only logs or clean wood are being burned and has a total fuel area of 3 feet or less in diameter and 2 feet or less in height for pleasure, religious ceremonial, cooking, warmth or similar purposes, and which is not used to dispose of garbage or yard waste.

— Recreational fires are allowed between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 10:30 p.m.

— No recreational burning is allowed on windy days (10 mph or higher) or on days when the atmospheric conditions (cloudy, overcast, or raining) would cause the smoke to remain low to the ground.

— Recreational fires must be attended by an adult who must be watching the fire at all times. Never leave the fire unattended.

— A water hose or fire extinguisher must be on hand that can reach the fire, and can be ready to use if needed.

— Recreational fires must be at least 25 feet from all structures.

— Recreational fires shall not be started with petroleum-based products.

— Some common sense shall be used when determining if a fire qualifies as a recreational fire. People sitting around a small campfire would be considered a recreational fire. A homeowner with a large pile of brush in their yard and frequently having a small fire is not a recreational fire.

*Bonfire- an outdoor fire larger than a recreational fire in which only logs or clean wood are being burned for ceremonial purposes. A bonfire permit is required to be issued by the Cobb County Fire Marshal’s Office. Please call 770-528-8310 to request an inspection and obtain a bonfire permit. Bonfires must be 50’ from structures, 100’ from property lines, and completely out by 10:30 p.m.

Types of Fires Exempt from the Burn Ordinance

* Fires burned for the purpose of cooking food for immediate human consumption, e.g., barbecue grill or pit.
* Fires in an outdoor fireplace, chimenea, fire bowl, or other similar device burning logs or clean wood only.

Anonymous said...

Unless the fire department is being flooded with calls for fire pit issues or out of control bon fires in peoples properties - who cares! Lets worry about rising property taxes. What the f@@K is wrong with this town?!

Anonymous said...

VOTE mCcauley OUT !!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

to the last poster. no one is saying it is rocket science. you are making it seem like they are all sitting around for hours on end trying to figure out what to do. I'm sure they know what they are going to do, but it has to be approved by the ordinance committee and until it is, they are not going to tell you what they will do otherwise people will hold them to it like they always do. Macauley is on the ordinance committee and was clarifying what is meant by burning brush and bonfires and judging by the articles I'm sure he is not talking about a little backyard gathering in a small firepit.

The fire dept, i.e. the chief, is looking into complaints that are made to him about people who abuse the right to burn small fires outside in firepits. I myself have seen my neighbors burning leaves and brush in the name of enjoying a fire with friends just so they don't have to go down to the dump to get rid of it.

let's face it. if people can get away with something they will and they always push the envelope. burning fires in your backyard is no exception. as we have seen in california, fires can get out of control real fast. you would hope people would use common sense, but there are a lot of folks who short of a full deck when it comes to common sense, if you get my drift.

Poboy said...

August 4, 2010 7:43 AM

Excellent points all around! I agree with everything you said.

Anonymous said...

Then there was the day I started a fire in my kettle grill to cook my supper . The grill was set in the middle of a 10' X 10' concrete patio with a garden hose @ it's base . The actual fire was covered by a steel grill and I stepped inside for a moment to get the ingredients to be cooked . The was a sudden loud KNOCK @ my door which turned out to be the Fire Department . I asked what was the problem and was told that although it was NOT illegal to cook my dinner on the grill , it would be BEST if I refrained from doing so in the future .

Take from this what you will .

Anonymous said...

You may have cooked your dinner a thousand times in that grill, but anything can happen and the one time you turn your back on the fire, it could have gotten out of control. I know you're thinking it's impossible, but the strangest stuff happens and obviously one of your neighbors was also concerned enough to call the fire department. They just don't show up because they were going door-to-door.

Again, common sense dictates you don't walk away from an open flame whether that's cooking on your gas stove or cooking outside. Someone should always be tending to the flame. It's like leaving a small child alone for a few seconds. Anything can happen no matter how secure you feel about the situation.