Manzanita City Manager Jerry Taylor thinks “too many people want to do their S’mores, have their camp fires, fire pits and kids want their weenie roastings,” to totally ban all burning within the city.
By Ann Powers
And, who could blame them? Not city council.
So, that’s why city officials are asking for public input on tougher open burning regulations. The topic heated up at the council’s Oct. 5 regular meeting, stemming from an incident last July sparking the debate.
That’s when a lot was cleared on Cherry Street and a large amount of debris was burned on site for four days. Since then, several residents and visitors have complained and want officials to prohibit all, or most, open burning within the city.
Manzanita’s Tom Campbell described his experience with that burn, one block from his home on Elm Street, that he said caused many businesses to lose money, ruined vacations and made some people physically ill.
“Neighbors with allergies suffered and my wife contracted a lung infection,” he wrote in a letter to the council. “Vacation homeowners directly downwind of the fire could not open their windows and had to shelter their infant grandchild. Other vacation renters that I met were asthmatic and were considering leaving without visiting for the entire term of their rental.”
Open burning of yard waste and household garbage makes for a lot of pollution, can cause health problems, stinks and increases fire and safety risks, according to treehugger.com.
“Open burning emits particles that can be inhaled into the lungs, toxic chemicals, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds,” the website’s literature states.
Campbell added he also had concerns with open burns occurring near Laneda Avenue that made visiting businesses “unpleasant.” At the recent council meeting, he pointed out Manzanita’s open burning regulations are the lowest permitted by law.
The city only mandates that burn permits are required for all burning, according to officials. Campbell asked the council to consider the most restrictive ordinance permitted by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
“This highest category still allows residents and visitors to burn firewood outdoors to enjoy the ambience of a camp fire (or) fire pit,” he noted.
Nehalem Bay Fire and Rescue (NBFR) Chief Perry Sherbaugh said while he understands the community’s concerns, his department only controls the standards for open burning, not whether it should be allowed.
“We’re not the fire police,” he explained. “That is a DEQ regulation and good luck in getting DEQ down here. We have no authority in enforcing (a city) ordinance.”
Taylor brought four options before the council at their recent meeting:
- Prohibit all open burning within the city;
- Limit open burning to fires three feet by three feet in size;
- Limit open burning to three feet by three feet for recreational fires and prohibit yard debris burning with any size fire, and;
- Do nothing – all fires permitted with a fire permit from NBFR.
“My initial thought is that it may be time to prohibit larger debris fires as a large amount of development has occurred over the years and more people are affected by the smoke,” Taylor said. “CARTM Recycling provides an option for dealing with yard debris. However, I don’t think the community is read to accept a ban on all fires.”
Mayor Garry Bullard said a small three-foot fire would not be a problem.
“But as for everything else, it’s time to put a stop to it,” he said of fires used to clear construction sites, burn barrels and more.
Before they put a stop to anything on the matter, city officials agreed more public input is needed. The council directed city staff to include questionnaires in residents’ next water bills.
The issue is expected to be brought back before the council in February. Until then, DEQ suggests the following:
- Assure all combustible material is dried to the extent practicable. Cover combustible material to protect it from moisture including precipitation or dew;
- Loosely stack combustible material to eliminate dirt, rocks or other noncombustible matter to promote an adequate air supply to the burning pile, and;
- Periodically re-stack or feed the burning pile to ensure combustion is robust and completed efficiently.