Recreational Fire Ordinance Passes Committee
The amendment to the City's recreational fire ordinance I authored passed the Public Safety, Civil Rights and Health committee this afternoon, and I expect it to pass the full Council next week. When it goes into effect, the City will prohibit recreational fires during "Air Quality Alert" days for particulate matter. Air Quality Alerts are called by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) when the Air Quality Index is in the range that is considered "unhealthy for sensitive groups."
This ordinance change was recommended by the City's Community Environmental Advisory Committee (CEAC) and Public Health Advisory Committee late last year. I consider it a compromise between folks who have concerns about recreational fires and those who enjoy having them.
At today's committee meeting, I asked our Fire Department and Health Department staff for more information about their plans to inform the public of these changes, let folks know when we're experiencing Air Quality Alert days, and generally educate the public about recreational fires. They will be working with the City's Communications Department to get the word out, producing a PSA-style video for use on the City's website and to be delivered by DVD, and crafting a letter for Council offices to use when we receive recreational fire complaints.
I realize that some Second Ward residents would have preferred that the City ban recreational fires outright. But that idea ran into strong opposition even at the Environmental and Public Health advisory committees, and would very likely have generated a massive backlash among the general public if it had been proposed by the Council. I believe that the ordinance that passed today will help protect health during periods when our air quality is bad, and that it will help start the conversation between neighbors.
My colleague Barb Johnson was right: as with so many issues, conflicts between neighbors regarding recreational fires can be avoided by good communication and some common courtesy. If you know that your neighbor has particular sensitivities - asthma, emphysema, or simply negative reactions to the smell of smoke - please reduce the length and frequency of your recreational fires. Burn only clean, dry wood to reduce smoke. Talk to neighbors beforehand to let them know you plan to have a fire, and be willing to compromise.