With wood burning fire pits, problems are inevitable

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The other day a resident concerned about fire pit pollution let me know that a  Reminder Of The Rules For Backyard Fire Pits: Country 95.5 FM : Lethbridge News, Alberta had been posted on a local radio station’s website.

The article makes no mention of the serious health concerns associated with wood smoke, and seems to overlook the fact that trying to burn wood in a neighbourhood without creating a problem for others is like trying to smoke in a restaurant without bothering other customers.

For neighbours of outdoor wood burners, heading indoors in a futile attempt to escape smoke particles – particles that are so small they cannot be kept out by closed windows and doors – is not “an enjoyable thing to do on a summer evening.”

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Image source: American Lung Association

The article also quotes a Lethbridge fire prevention officer’s information that most of last year’s fire pit complaints involved fire pits that were not contravening Lethbridge’s current Open Burning bylaw, and that the other calls were mainly from people who had waited until after our city’s outdoor burning curfew to seek assistance.  From the article:

Fire Prevention Officer Mark Hoveling believes last year they responded to 72 fire pit calls. He says “probably about 40 of them the fire pits were legal, the people were doing nothing out of the ordinary, and the other ones usually were because it was after midnight.”

I think this statement shows clearly how our present bylaw is very flawed, and needs to change.

Outdoor burning of any kind is avoidable, and for those who do want to have an outdoor fire, better options than wood fire pits are available.  For our local government to go on permitting any amount of unnecessary and harmful outdoor burning smoke in neighbourhood environments is simply not acceptable.

As I posted in a Twitter reply that same evening to the article’s author and to a local city councillor who had retweeted the article,

“We would all benefit from an updated bylaw protecting clean air and community health.”

I believe most informed residents would welcome an updated and amended bylaw that affirms the right of citizens to breathe healthy, smoke-free air, in and around their own neighbourhoods and homes.

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