Bellevue passes burn ordinance

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Bellevue passes burn ordinance

Postby Wilberforce » Fri May 25, 2012 7:13 pm

Letters to the Editor 5-25-12
Article | 05.25.12 | By

I believe that the citizens in favor of an ordinance regulating recreational fires should have their side represented and so I am writing this letter. To be honest, most of us with this opinion would like such fires banned, but regulations are a great first step in the right direction. All we want is the right to clean air. I feel good about the current Bellevue mayor and council's course of action at this time. I have spoken to many residents who express their unhappiness with the burning of specifically "fire pits" or "chimineas," but lack the courage or time to contact the borough about it, are afraid of repercussions from the recreational fire users, or they are the type to just suffer in silence thinking their opinion won't count. I myself have run into a lot of opposition from specifically fire pit users, and while it is upsetting, I am a person of strong beliefs and I don't rattle.

First of all, I don't understand why the recreational fire users are so upset. The borough did not ban their use. Bellevue Council has simply asked that they notify the fire department one hour before starting, burn clean wood, and keep it a certain distance from any structures. This would be a great help to the fire department because they wouldn't be called out many times a night responding to non-emergencies ending up being fire pits. Plus, it tends to be very dry here during the summer months and a fire hazard is all too real. Is calling first too much to ask?

Let me also bring up something I doubt any fire pit user has thought of, and that is homeowner's insurance. Insurance companies do not automatically cover you in any recreational fire usages, specifically fire pits. There are potential safety hazards of owning one, and if it does cause damage or loss, you may be financially responsible for part or all of the damage. They are a structural fire hazard and are certainly capable of causing smoke inhalation damage to other people, in which they can bring a lawsuit against you.

A good compromise would be to "go green" by banning wood burning fire pits and allowing natural gas or propane outdoor burning systems which do not emit the hazardous smoke that wood does. Fire pits with these systems burn clean, are easy to control, do not spew smoke and ash into the surrounding air, and are as easy to turn on and off as with a flip of a switch. This solution seems to be a no-brainer in my opinion. Everyone wins! Neighbors can enjoy their smoke-free air while fire pit owners can enjoy the comforting warm glow a fire pit brings.

However, my main issue with the pro-fire pit people, honestly, is their attitude. They seem to have a no-holds barred, uncompromising, aggressive attitude. This is not conducive to any kind of constructive progress. Fire pits are the latest trend, the latest toy, and everyone wants one even if they don't know why. I'm sure in time, people will tire of them and they will sit in their yards unused, but until then there are the health and safety issues. They are not an essential part of living or working, hence the name "recreational fires." With this ordinance, Bellevue Council is just doing its job, placing the safety and health of all citizens in the forefront.

When I read the letter from last week's Citizen from Mr. Thomas Fodi, my initial reaction was that he was highly emotional, overreacting and angry. I respect that Mr. Fodi has an opinion, but there just aren't any real facts to support it. The issue was and remains the safety and health implications of recreational fires, not speculations about Bellevue becoming a socialist state or the taking away of citizen's rights. People just have to call. No one is taking away
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Letters Continued from Page 6

anything, simply put.

Mr. Fodi states many times that Bellevue Council is limiting and controlling the rights of its citizens, businesses and property owners, and that they create ordinances "out of the blue" based on the whims of a "handful of residents." I am a lifelong resident of the boroughs of Avalon and Bellevue and whenever any council makes a decision regarding an ordinance or regulation, it is a long studious process and never is it based on what a handful of citizens want. There are things I have wanted Bellevue Council to do many times regarding property codes, property taxes, garbage clean-up, noise statutes, parking, etc., but it never happened, because not enough people were involved to change anything. There was a highly publicized vote on the liquor issue a year or so ago, and there weren't enough people in favor of the drinking. So obviously the "handful of residents" idea isn't valid. And the constant "new and further restricting ordinances" mentioned by him -- where and when? For me, there are not enough of them, or they are simply not enforced as they should be due to budget cuts, etc. Thomas Fodi asks "Does Bellevue Council truly believe its residents cannot handle our grievances with one another on a personal level?" Not only Bellevue believes that, but I do and most of the world. This isn't Woodstock, we aren't flower children, and it's not 1969. Without rules, laws, ordinances, etc., people tend to get out of hand, order disappears, and trouble ensues. We all need structure, laws and government. We need to all work together to make this borough viable and thriving. Ranting about personal freedom and your right to do what you want when you want it sounds selfish.

My own personal story regarding fire pits involves a user about three blocks away. This person has a huge, dirty burning fire pit with flames four feet high (regulations?), and the smoke drifts that far and comes into our windows at night when we would like a cool breeze to blow in. Our house fills with smoke and we all cough. We have called the fire company about this. When my husband or I have tried talking to other firepit users regarding the smoke, we are met with anger and a flaunting of personal rights. Recently on the social media site Facebook, I was angrily attacked when I expressed my support of the new Bellevue ordinance. The attacks were verbal but vicious, and totally without fact or logic. I can see how we can all work things out peacefully without any government!

As to a "public health awareness campaign" --would all the firepit owners participate? There is an air quality program scheduled on Wednesday, June 13, at the Avalon Borough Building with a lecturer from CCAC at 6:30 pm. Will the firepit owners be there? I sincerely doubt it.

An important quote regarding democracy (by Kenneth Strike and Jonas Soltis, authors of "The Ethics of Teaching") is "Everyone is equally valued and is treated with equal respect and dignity. One test of such a community is how it cares for its weakest and most vulnerable members." We are a republic as a nation, and have a representative form of government in which others speak for us. I implore Bellevue Council to not let the recreational fire users bully everyone into accepting what they want. We who are against the fire use have a voice too. It's not that I or anyone else wants to attack the rights and privileges of any citizen, but it's unsafe given the close proximity of houses in an urban area, and just plain dirty and unhealthy, just like cigarette smoking. And cigarette smoking is pretty much banned everywhere for the same reasons. I remember back in the 1960's when I was a kid, we were allowed to burn garbage and leaves in the boroughs. We also had coal furnaces and used leaded gas in cars. Neville Island frequently showered gray ash on everything, the air smelled like rotten eggs, and cigarettes were a popular thing and not restricted anywhere. Pittsburgh also looked filthy and black all the time and the percentage of cancer, especially lung cancer, was very high. Things have changed thanks in part to the regulation of all of the above. Why are we going backwards and allowing open burning again?

Sources in Minnesota state that firepits account for 30 percent of their metropolitan air pollution. Sources in California state that the products of combustion from firepits contain carcinogens, particulates, benzene, irritants and such similar to cigarette smoke. There are many Web sites reporting asthma attacks, allergic reactions, severe coughing, red itchy tearing eyes, and even skin irritations caused by wood smoke. When these facts are brought up to the firepit users, it is met with unsympathetic, uncaring, profanity-laced aggressive responses. It's really sad. They should care. They should care about everyone's welfare and not their own personal desires.

Debbi Overly

As I sat and listened to the comments made at the [Bellevue Council] meeting..., I heard many sincere and heartfelt concerns regarding the proposed ordinance... (council) wishes to place in the record books. And after leaving the borough hall, I had a chance to reflect on all of the comments made. I, personally, only had two comments myself. They were... "The proposed ordinance sucks." and the next, which needs a little more explaining.

I am concerned with the use and abuse the Allegheny County "emergency" dispatch center will receive should this ordinance be passed. I, personally, have attempted to contact our "local authorities" over the past two-plus years for situations of a serious nature. As I do my job every day, I see, hear and smell many of things which require immediate attention. And, as what I thought was normal, I would call the "local" numbers I have, to report an auto accident, a pedestrian down, the smell of a gas leak or smoke, just to be told by whomever it is that answers our (Bellevue’s) local number, "If this is an emergency, you need to hang up and dial 911 because we don't have any way of dispatching anyone from here." Let me note, this is not a recording, but instead an actual person who answers, what use to be Bellevue’s "emergency numbers.
My point? What happens if your loved one is having a possible heart attack, or your house is on fire and you try to contact "911", only to be put on hold because I am calling in to report that I am planning a recreational fire to cook a hotdog or s’more? Let us hope and pray your loved one lives through the hold.

A point I forgot to mention at the meeting... was that, what few fires I do have anymore personally are small, quaint, controlled and more importantly, for entertaining out of town guests who love the idea that our little town allows us to do this in the privacy of our own yards.

There are way too many more serious issues to worry about, than who's cookin’ a weenie over an open firepit in this one square mile town.

David Fodi
[Editor’s note: The ordinance specifically states that calls are to be made to the fire department’s non-emergency phone number, not to 911.]

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Re: Letters to the Editor 5-25-12

Postby Wilberforce » Wed Jun 13, 2012 9:00 pm

Letters to the Editor 6-1-12
Article | 06.01.12 | By

A Tempest in a Fire pit

It's not about campfires.
It is about a council that devotes time and resources to propose another ordinance that is not driven by the needs of the community. Council reasoning is unclear, but in absence of any other explanation beyond clichés, it appears that the proposed burning ordinance is a response to one or two chronic complainers to the detriment of many Bellevue residents.
The recent activity at the council meeting on Tuesday, 5/22/2012, was a vivid demonstration to those in attendance of the mindset, not to mention the shortcomings, of a number of current council members. In the face of overwhelming public opposition to the proposed ordinance, council members, and more disappointingly the solicitor, clearly demonstrated that their minds were made up and that the citizens in attendance just didn't understand how good the council was at protecting us from an as yet undemonstrated problem in air quality due to backyard fires on private property.
Missing from the remarkably thin explanations provided during the council discussion were answers about the following:
Is there any air quality study that supports the need?
Did anyone confer with the Fire Department pro-
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Letters Continued from Page 6
fessionals? If so, what is their opinion? (Actually, we found out at the meeting. They were not consulted and they do not support the ordinance)
How many incidents or complaints involving backyard fires were reported in the last year, or five years?
Is the source of any offending smoke solely from backyard fires? Is the offending fire in Bellevue or a surrounding community?
Was there any analysis done about the impact on emergency services or code enforcement workers?
What is the cost of maintaining and enforcing this ordinance? Will additional hiring be in the future?
Clearly, the council did not do its homework.
According to the solicitor the main reason for putting this forward is just a simple matter that "everyone else has an ordinance." In fact, he said that he has already written the same ordinance for two or more other communities. Is the Bellevue proposal identical? If so, did we pay for a third cut-and-paste version of someone else's document?
The argument is not against clean air. Of course we all want that. We already have it. If a few people think they have respiratory problems, there may be remedies for them -- perhaps the council can consider providing assistance for that if they do not have the means, but only if their problem is shown to be the result of Bellevue smoke, and not just a life issue unfortunately thrust upon them. Or worse, a dispute with neighbors disguised as a public health issue.
Public opinion is clear. This draft ordinance should be put in a drawer and used only as a reminder to any future council of the nonsense that can occur when inadequate analysis drives a solution to a problem that does not exist. If that lesson is learned, this could be a valuable step toward the council being taken seriously some day. As it stands, this entire fiasco only confirms what I have heard from numerous residents and business owners -- that the council is the most significant obstacle to constructive growth and development of the gem that is Bellevue.
It's not about camp fires. It's about the freedom to be left alone.
Eugene R. Supparits

Bellevue's bid on burn rules draws fire
June 7, 2012 5:56 am

By Jill Cueni-Cohen

At least one Bellevue councilman and several residents said Tuesday night that they are unhappy about a proposed revision to the borough's burn ordinance that would require residents cooking outdoors to be at least 5 feet from their house.

During the third reading of the burn ordinance, which is being updated, council member Mark Helbling said he was opposed to the part of the law regarding the placement of grills in relation to a residence.

The proposed ordinance, in part, says, "grills, bar-b-ques and fireplaces used strictly for cooking may be no less than 5 feet from house, property lines, etc., while in use."

"I should be able to say where the grill is located in my house," Mr. Helbring said. "I can't be in favor of any grill regulations. That's a person's common sense. It's like telling me where to cook or telling me to tell my kids not to play with matches. I don't think [council] should be allowed to do that."

Resident Tom Fodi agreed with Mr. Helbring, calling Bellevue a "nanny government." Mr. Fodi said, "It's the intent of council to regulate more and disenfranchise residents more."

The revisions address where, when and what can and cannot be burned.

"Adult supervision is required at all times until fire has been completely extinguished, and adult property owner is presumed to be responsible for assuring that all burning on their property complies with the Ordinance," reads the latest proposed revision.

Council president Linda Woshner noted that she has been receiving a number of complaints regarding residents suffering from respiratory problems because of excessive smoke. And, the borough has received other complaints about leaf burning and an unsupervised fire.

"Last year, $37 million worth of damage occurred from grill fires across the country," council member Jane Braunlich said. "Ten people died, and 100 were injured. With 7,000 citizens to protect, I'll stand by this ordinance."

Fire Marshall Jeff Wissner told council that recreational fires -- not grills -- were the cause of most outdoor fire problems.

"Recreational fires are the main issue," he said, adding, "Without an ordinance, nothing can be done. If any fire poses a significant fire or safety hazard, [we need to have the authority] to make sure that fire is abated or removed."

A requirement that fires be extinguished by 2 a.m. was removed from the proposed ordinance after council agreed that the borough's noise ordinance would suffice.

Mrs. Braunlich suggested that a free, one-time permit be issued to residents who wish to set fires on their property. Other council members agreed with that provision, which likely will be added to the ordinance that will be considered at council's meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Jill Cueni-Cohen, freelance writer:
First Published June 7, 2012 5:55 am

source ... re-639373/


Bellevue passes burn ordinance
June 13, 2012 1:23 am

By Jill Cueni-Cohen

Mayor George Doscher recommended that residents try lighting up their grills in a show of civil disobedience after Bellevue Borough's council passed a revised burning ordinance during last night's regular meeting.

The controversial changes include a passage mandating that grills be located five feet away from homes and structures. Residents spoke for and against the ordinance and continued to debate the issue even after the motion was passed.

source ... ce-640155/
• The Surgeon General has determined that there is no safe level of exposure to ambient smoke!

• If you smell even a subtle odor of smoke, you are being exposed to poisonous and carcinogenic chemical compounds!

• Even a brief exposure to smoke raises blood pressure, (no matter what your state of health) and can cause blood clotting, stroke, or heart attack in vulnerable people. Even children experience elevated blood pressure when exposed to smoke!

• Since smoke drastically weakens the lungs' immune system, avoiding smoke is one of the best ways to prevent colds, flu, bronchitis, or risk of an even more serious respiratory illness, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis! Does your child have the flu? Chances are they have been exposed to ambient smoke!
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