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Should Backyard Fires Be Allowed in Ferndale?

Open burning is currently illegal in the city, but officials are working on an ordinance that would make fire pits legal with certain restrictions.

There may be good news on the horizon for Ferndale residents who enjoy backyard campfires.

The city currently prohibits all open burning, including fire pits, but officials are working on changing that.

At the Ferndale City Council meeting on Monday, resident Ben Updyke told council members that he has regularly burned wood in an enclosed fire pit outside his home for the past five years, but that a fire official arrived at his house Saturday evening unbeknownst to him and put out his backyard fire with a garden hose.

He said he has learned of the city's open-burn ordinance and hopes council will revisit the issue, possibly allowing for burning firewood inside of enclosed fire pits.

"I'm wondering if we can take a second look at that," he said.

Ferndale Mayor Dave Coulter told Updyke his comments are very timely because an ordinance change is already in the works. The new ordinance would allow fire pits with some regulations and restrictions.

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

The city's attorney, Dan Christ, said an ordinance draft has been provided to the Ferndale Fire Department and a proposed ordinance should be presented at council's next meeting Oct. 8.

What do you think?

Do you think Ferndale should allow fire pits? Did you know they were illegal in the city? Tell us in the comments section below.

Ferndale Historical Society September 27, 2012 at 02:08 PM
Well see using lighter fluid to light a small backyard fire pit is not responsible. If one is burning correctly and not have an inferno blazing the smoke should go straight up and waft off and not enter neighbors homes. I would hope if the burn ban is lifted that these rules and considerations are emphasized and fines incurred if not followed. It is another way to be sure that those who are burning must do it right and responsibly or there are repercussions to be had. We must ensure the safety of our neighborhoods and the respect our neighbors. Very good point Paul L.
laura September 27, 2012 at 02:24 PM
yes as long as use is contained in a safe & controllable container & no trash garbage or treated wood is burnt
Robert Zograph September 27, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Many cities regulate the use of fire pits, both above and in ground. Open burn was enacted to stop burning leaves, not the burning of wood for leisure. When many cities enacted their bans, they did a "blanket" ban, instead of regulating due to budget constraints or just plain laziness. If done responsibly, it is more than fine.
Michelle Dozier September 27, 2012 at 08:56 PM
I would love to have a fire pit burning in my yard I purchased one about 5 years ago to be told we could not burn in FERNDALE and they usually put out the warnings about burning in the spring news letter
Slikc September 27, 2012 at 09:37 PM
I've been brazenly disobeying the law for years. It's terribly written anyway. I have a neighbor who must be the only person on earth who dislikes a campfire smell (yet at the same time running a small dog rescue/adoption - nice poop smell wafting over the fence). Has called the police a few times, the whole 9. They are usually understanding, seemingly knowing themselves of the law's lameness. Heck, it seems to say it's legal if your cooking food! Helloooooo marshmallows! So the lesson here: make a fire, cook a hot dog, & eat for 3 hours w/ your kids & neighbors...you anarchist
Kevin September 28, 2012 at 03:19 AM
Fire = good times. let us be responsible adults. Local stores sell fire wood which means we will buy more things at these stores...... If I have to have a hot dog on a stick so I don't get a ticket, well thats crazy talk.
Betsy Rose September 28, 2012 at 03:39 AM
You'll be sorry. I live in a burb next to Ferndale and it stinks! These residential areas are just to crowded to allow all this burning in my realistic experience of all this burning. Forget about opening your windoows for some cool fresh air. When I moved here 31 years ago this was a nice place to live. What has changed is it stinks outside. Burning. It iritates the eyes, nose and lungs. Any kinds of smoke in the lungs is not healthy. But I'm sure Ferndale will start to stink like my burb does. All these posts of people who can't wait to burn stinks!
Ardy September 28, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Considering the poor air quality in our section of the Metro area; is this really "green"? It's only going to take one idiot to burn down a few houses by mistake. I say it's too risky; keep it in place and use your fireplaces if you have them. If not; oh well.
Tom September 30, 2012 at 12:20 AM
Should backyard fire pits be allowed? Absolutely NOT! This is for several good reasons, not the least of which is that Ferndale has small, flammable WOODEN houses on small lots. I have seen and documented dozens of cases over the past ten years of people burning on wood decks, leaving fires smoldering while turning in for the night, or creating yards full of smoke by burning green trimmings, even burning treated-lumber scraps. Houses have been burned to the ground due to firepits in Canada, Colorado, Virginia. People dump gasoline on fires (in Lennox, a burner caused his 6 year old to die from 3rd-degree burns on 90% of her body) And this summer, a vastly-oversized fire pit exploded and killed two teens, due to usage of accelerant. People are simply TOO IRRESPONSIBLE to consider allowing backyard burning. This is just too dangerous. This is not to mention the fact that wood smoke is every bit as harmful as tobacco secondhand smoke. We are banning SHS everywhere. Why start allowing widespread poisonous wood smoke in our neighborhoods now? That would be going in the wrong direction!
CaresAboutHealth September 30, 2012 at 01:21 AM
Breathing woodsmoke is much worse than breathing cigarette smoke. This regulation, intended to protect public health should remain.
CaresAboutHealth September 30, 2012 at 01:28 AM
Fun for you, maybe, but not for the neighbors forced to breath health-hazardous smoke. Just as it's impolite to puff on a cigarette and then blow the smoke straight into another person's face, it's doubly implolite to light a fire and have the smoke, which has been found to cause 12 times as many cancers as the same amount of cigarette smoke into someone else's house or garden.
Giulia September 30, 2012 at 12:35 PM
Any wood burning is A HAZARD to one's well being health etc, and THEREFORE, THERE should be BAN ON ALL WOOD BURNING!
Paul Levendoski September 30, 2012 at 02:32 PM
If done right the smoke should waft up to open air ...yes that is true except you have to deal with nature too.....wind wil blow smoke into near by houses...if it can blow inot your face while your sitting there,everybody has shifted around a campfire due to smoke blowing right at them so that smell even on a small fire will go into homes less then 50 ft from the fire,Humidity will hold smoke closer to the ground,and yes some people will have fires when its hot and humid if they plan a party and nature dishes out the heat that day in the spring summer or fall.
Janet Lawless September 30, 2012 at 04:29 PM
yes, fire pits should be allowed as long as they are used responsibly! It's a personal freedom that should not be infringed upon. Sure smoke is produced, but it is not the same as cigarette smoke (no direct inhale, no tar, no nicotine) and probably produces less smoke than nearby traffic on Woodward Ave. And, Ferndale enjoys many large lots that well accommodate fire pits. Let's let residents enjoy this cozy summer and fall pleasure!
CaresAboutHealth September 30, 2012 at 09:00 PM
Janet is very misinformed. Woodsmoke is much worse than cigarette smoke - tests show it causes 12 to 30 times as many cancers as the same amount of cigarette smoke - http://www.familiesforcleanair.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/FCA_5reasons.pdf As for nearby traffic - the average indoor wood heater produces as much smoke in 9 hours as the average car does in a year. Fireplaces (and fire pits) are no better.
Betsy Rose October 01, 2012 at 02:33 AM
What about other people's freedom to not have to breathe your toxic smoke? You need to look up the word infringe. Its the people who are burning that are infringing. This really has nothing to due with freedom. It has to due with the rule of law. Do you have the right to poison me with your toxic smoke coming into my private property?
Tom October 01, 2012 at 03:59 AM
Janet, personal freedom goes with personal responsibility. And you are correct that "first-hand" cigarette smoke is worse, but I am talking about "second-hand" smoke.
open mind ferndale guy October 01, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Yes, yes, yes. Only people who hate awesome things dislike the smell of campfires. Campfire is primal to us, as a sense of security and community. It brings family and friends together. All this lame talk of "toxic" smoke is silly. If you only burn untreated lumber, there is almost no chance of any sort of tixcity, because nobody stands in the path of smoke. You say "rabbit rabbit rabbit" a couple times and then move. As for neighbors, instead of hiding in your house, come out, join the fire and meet your neighbors. Don't just stay inside and complain you can't open your windows, step outside, bring a six pack of beer and a chair and join the circle. Community, respect and neighborly feelings will grow. Now, people who burn treated wood, junk, etc are a-holes and those people should be beaten and left in a ditch. There are enough places just a few miles north along dequindre to buy wood (usually around 40-60 bucks a cord) that burning bad wood and trash is just despicable.
cleanair October 02, 2012 at 01:36 PM
Camp fires smell like stinky armpits and bad breath but the results are far worse. If you can smell smoke you are breathing harmful toxins. It is wrong that people who choose not to smoke are made to smoke other people's residue. Fire departments are purely interested in the escape of fire. They are not concerned about the health of those forced to breathe the smoke from fire pits. In actual fact the fire department should not even be consulted in this health matter. These thoughtless burners need to spare a thought for susceptible groups, ie, those with asthma, COPD, cardio pulmonary disease, cardiac disease, the young and the elderly. Why should these people's health and lives be put at risk because of a few selfish burners? Keep a total out-door fire ban in place. The only good fire pit is a dead one!
Shirley Brandie October 03, 2012 at 03:09 AM
There should be no outdoor burning in any residential area. It is unfair to be forced to breathe the smoke from a neighbor. People need to research what is in wood smoke. It is not good for anyone to breathe. I truly hope that the council members will not decide to allow the burning in any form.
Shirley Brandie October 03, 2012 at 03:11 AM
You are a part of the problem and being that way will almost assure a ban is put into place and, no doubt, one of the reasons one was put there in the first place.
Brian Smith October 03, 2012 at 04:09 AM
What happened to the almighty environmental sustainability (tree hugger) committee? There was a time they advocated the ban of charcoal grills and it almost happened. Free range chickens and open fires, that's what the "progressives" will bring you....progressively hypocritical....
Thomas Gagne October 03, 2012 at 12:07 PM
I wasn't around when it was first used, but it's great listening to all the arguments against mankind's greatest invention. I'm trying to imagine Glug's neighbors, were they impressed by his outdoor chimea enough to make him mayor of the tribe, or were there arguments about the smoke? I suppose when day-to-day life's dangers included things that would eat you and wondering if you would eat, a little thing like the smell of Glug's fire could only be a first-world problem.
Tom October 05, 2012 at 12:17 AM
open mind ferndale guy, if you are truly open-minded, you will want to learn about the toxicity of wood smoke (it is actually much worse than tobacco SHS) Here is a good source of information: http://burningissues.org/car-www/index.html
Patricia October 08, 2012 at 03:23 PM
NO! The smoke comes into neighbors houses and yard, if the wind changes. As a former smoker, and an outdoor cooking Girl Scout Leader, I know smoke and fires. I say NO, the lots are too small, and people are too careless. NO.. we need to be able to have our windows open for FRESH air.
Thomas Gagne October 08, 2012 at 03:30 PM
What kind of restrictions exist, or should exist, for backyard grilling? Must it always be gas to avoid offending people with charcoal? Should it be prohibited to avoid tempting dieters or the formerly obese? What about kitchen exhaust fans and popcorn? In the case off a winter-time power-outages, should residents be prohibited from outdoor, contained fires to stay warm? Should wood-burning stoves and furnaces be banned to avoid tormenting former smokers or the otherwise-concerned?
T. Scott Galloway October 08, 2012 at 04:05 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 as to the content to the ordinance or whether it should be allowed at all.
Thomas Gagne October 08, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Councilman, the restrictions seem reasonable to me. The difficult part will be determining what is or isn't a nuisance in such a way that reasonable neighbors will agree.
Lou Phelan December 02, 2012 at 02:32 PM
What is wrong with getting a natural gas or propane burning fire pit or fire wall? This is the compromise that I am suggesting to those that would like to enjoy an outdoor fire, but don't want to endanger the health of our neighbors. Reasons to approve a natural gas or propane fire pit/fire wall solution: 1. They are clean burning. Natural gas and propane units do not give off offensive "smoke smell" and accompanying carcinogens that are a concern to many of us. 2. They don't cause or trigger the number of health problems that wood burning smoke does. It also eliminates worries over triggering asthma and allergy attacks in our neighbors. 3. The EPA warns that inhaling the smoke from wood burning fire places is dangerous to: a.) People with heart or lung disease, including CHF, angina, COPD, emphysema, or asthma. b.) Older adults, possibly because they are more likely to suffer from chronic health conditions. c.) Children, because their lungs are still developing and they breathe more air (and air pollution) in per pound of body weight than adults. 4.) Fire risk to property and community is much lower with natural gas or propane. There is no danger of "burning embers" setting the surroundings on fire. 5.) When they are "off" they are off. When you go to bed there isn't a danger of embers reigniting combustible materials. There are many health and property reasons NOT to allow wood burning fire pits within the city limits.
Respect Each Other December 15, 2012 at 07:29 PM
I live in Florida, it's generally hot here. In the 3 or 4 winter months we have, it actually gets cool enough to turn off the airconditioner, open the windows, air the house, enjoy outdoor air....It sounds lovely but then your backyard neighbor whose property line is less than 20 feet from your windows decides to burn a fire. Oh, Oh! you are forced to close the windows but it doesn't help, the smell seeps in the dryer vent, under the doors, in the windows, and in the attic space through the soffit vents. Now who has violated who's rights? I didn't do anything but breathe, what are my rights?

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