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Backyard Fires on Ferndale City Council's Agenda Tonight

Council will vote on a proposed open burning ordinance amendment that would allow fire pits with a permit and restrictions.

Ferndale City Council will consider a proposed ordinance amendment on Monday that would allow residents to have backyard fires as long as they follow certain guidelines.

The city of Ferndale currently has a ban on all open burning, including fire pits.

The issue was discussed briefly at council's last meeting on Sept. 24 when a resident asked about a possible change to the ordinance during public comment. Ferndale Mayor Dave Coulter said an ordinance change was already in the works that would allow fire pits with some regulations and restrictions.

"It won't be the outright ban that we have now," Coulter said at the meeting. "The ordinance itself is being reviewed as we speak."

That proposed ordinance amendment is on the agenda for tonight's council meeting, which will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Monday at Ferndale City Hall.

The proposed ordinance

"People are and have been burning regardless of the current law, so let’s make it legal and safe by permit under an ordinance that allows for regulation and enforcement," the background summary to the amendment proposal reads in part. "The Fire Department with the City Attorney believes we have accomplished that with this ordinance amendment."

Under the proposed ordinance amendment, residents must get an annual building permit (proposed fee at $25) for any patio wood-burning unit or campfire.

The ordinance would prohibit the burning of trash, brush, leaves and grass clippings; only clean wood could be used. It states that backyard fires "shall not cause a nuisance to neighbors" and can only be between the hours of 11 a.m. and 1 a.m. You can read the full proposed ordinance here.

What do you think?

Patch readers recently shared their views here on whether backyard fires should be allowed in the city.

What do you think of the proposed ordinance? Do you hope it passes? Tell us in the comments section below.

Ferndale_1986 October 08, 2012 at 12:39 PM
"People are and have been burning regardless of the current law, so let’s make it legal and safe by permit under an ordinance that allows for regulation and enforcement," the background summary to the amendment proposal reads in part. great logic. we need to change the law to accomodate law breakers.
Greg Pawlica October 08, 2012 at 12:51 PM
Yep, just like they keep raising the speed limit on highways. 70mph...ridiculous!
Julie Knepper- Updyke October 08, 2012 at 12:52 PM
Or.... we're listening to our constituents about what they want to see in their city, and making changes to modernize our ordinances.
Benjamin Updyke October 08, 2012 at 04:07 PM
How did we get from firepits to the speed limit? If someone has a problem with a neighbor burning wood I would hope that they would have a private discussion, neighbor to neighbor. We do not need restrictive laws for every situation in life.
Len October 08, 2012 at 04:12 PM
When laws are flawed this is what should be done. Slavery was legal too. With your "logic" escaped slaves or those who helped them should be prosecuted.
JGTECK October 08, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Fine regulate the size of the fire, but do we really need to tax us for it as well. Come on!
Ferndale_1986 October 08, 2012 at 05:12 PM
@Greg Pawlica 75 mph in many states, even 80 mph in some parts of Texas.
Ferndale_1986 October 08, 2012 at 05:13 PM
@Len straw man big time. nice try, Len.
Ferndale_1986 October 08, 2012 at 05:47 PM
@ Benjamin because it's the same problem. i really don't care if my neighbor burns his garage down, the problem is i do care if he burns down my garage too. that's why the current ban on backyard fires should remain in place. and yes, the same logic applies to speed limits. if people want to drive at high speeds and kill themselves that's darwin's law. again, the problem i have with 70/75/80 mph speed limits is they're likely to take me or someone else out along with them. your right to swing your fist stops at the end of my nose, so to speak.
T. Scott Galloway October 08, 2012 at 06:33 PM
The proposed ordinance requires that residents who want a fire pit in their backyard get a $25 permit - annually - and adhere to the following requirements. 1. The patio wood-burning unit or campfire shall not be used to burn refuse. 2. The patio wood-burning unit or campfire shall burn only clean wood. 3. The patio wood-burning unit or campfire shall be located at least 20 feet from the nearest structure which is not on the same property as the patio wood-burning unit and at least 15 feet from the nearest structure on the same property as the patio wood-burning unit. 4. The patio wood-burning unit or campfire shall not cause a nuisance to neighbors. 5. Operational hours for any patio wood-burning unit or campfire shall be limited to the time between 11:00 AM and 1:00 A.M. 6. All Fires shall be supervised by at least one person who is 18 years of age or older. 7. There shall be at minimum a garden hose connected to a reliable water supply, 1 gallon bucket of water, or a 2a10BC rated fire extinguisher with 20 feet of any open burning. I am on the fence as to how to vote and welcome your input about the content of the ordinance or whether it should be allowed at all.
Robert Zograph October 08, 2012 at 06:51 PM
@T. Scott: I think those guidelines are very reasonable, but I think you will still get people burning without a license. What kills me is people that really don;t see the bigger picture here. The city is listening to the residents wants and needs, and responding accordingly. I think that if Ferndale is in line with other Municipalities, I think that is progress, and isn't that what Ferndale is all about?
Liz Trombley October 08, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Personally, I would like to see you vote no. I do not enjoy my neighbor's second hand smoke. However, if this has to happen, are there provisions for dealing with rental properties? Would a renter be allowed to get a permit? Chicken Coops are only allowed on owner-occupied properties. Would permits only be issued to landlords in good standing with the city? For what I have seen, the city has not been able to handle various inspections as it is, let alone adding to the workload.
Julie Knepper- Updyke October 08, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Scott (and all council people!)- Please vote Yes! I'm concerned about the strain on our fire department! The FD said they are responding to over a thousand calls a year, and putting out fire pits with garden hoses. This is not utilizing them in the right way. It's costing too much time and money to utilize the FD in this way. For those concerned about spreading fire- do you have statistics on how many neighborhood fires are started from fire pit usage (or misusage) to support those fears? For those concerned about second hand smoke- does Ferndale have a permit in place for smoking at home? My neighbors' cigarette and pot smoke bothers me more than their fire pits, but if it really bothered me, I'd just ask them to smoke their cigarettes on the other side of their porch. I wouldn't ask council to ask them on my behalf. What role do we want our government to play? Do we really want this to be a government regulation- or a common sense regulation? It seems to me the new ordinance is leaning towards common sense. My question is how the $25 permit will prevent extraneous fire dept runs and how the council will get the word out about the ordinance to residents. They admit that most residents don't know the existing ordinance is on the books.
Julie Knepper- Updyke October 08, 2012 at 09:00 PM
Also- I thought Greg was being sarcastic about the speed limit. I'm going to stick with my interpretation of that!
Patrick Dengate October 08, 2012 at 09:52 PM
I'd vote no. I doubt the majority of these fires will be small and burning seasoned oak & hickory. Despite the proposed regulations (enforced by whom?), I suspect all kinds of things are going to end up in them: softer, smokier woods; painted or treated bits of lumber; trash, etc. Most important—smoke of any kind, at ground level, has no place in residential areas where the lots are typically only 50' - 60' wide. At least fireplaces vent through a chimney, far above the ground and other people's windows. Sorry to be a kill-joy on this one.
Ferndale_1986 October 08, 2012 at 09:58 PM
god forbid we don't satisfy every resident's "wants and needs"! yes yes yes, even more so on this issue which is obviously crucial to the citizens of ferndale emotional well-being! we must err on the side of entertainment on this "burning" issue! ohhhhhhh bruuuuther!
Robert Zograph October 08, 2012 at 10:03 PM
Wow, way to be a cranky old man about it!
Betsy Rose October 09, 2012 at 05:09 AM
"People are and have been burning regardless of the current law" Its obvious this new policy/law will not be enforced, not enough staff to do the enforcement. "The ordinance would prohibit the burning of trash, brush, leaves and grass clippings; only clean wood could be used. It states that backyard fires "shall not cause a nuisance to neighbors" and can only be between the hours of 11 a.m. and 1 a.m." Once again not enough staff to check all those fire pits. You'll be sorry and Ferndale will stink, friction between neighbors and lung disease. Does anyone really believe that people will only burn "clean wood?" If this wasn't so poisionous and just a really bad idea it would be funny.
Betsy Rose October 09, 2012 at 05:17 AM
If its the law and your neighbor sees no problem or couldn't care less about your distress I hope you have the money and the time to take them to court. This burning is a very bad idea. It smells real bad especially in the fresh spring air and summer. You'll be sorry believe me I know.
A Scott Dietlin October 18, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Of course it would take one vote "no" from Scott Galloway with regard to this issue. I think it's time that we ou'st this councilman from our elective officials as all he seems to think of himself and his agenda only. You need to keep the "legal" side of our voting out of the cause and think of the majority instead.
Betsy Rose October 19, 2012 at 06:28 AM
Being forced to breathe smoke filled air is not progress. That is a fact.

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