Written by MARK JAEGER
Wednesday, 09 July 2014 16:14
Parks Committee notes that the popular backyard features are prohibited according to ordinances
Village of Fredonia officials concede that fire pits are a common feature on the local landscape, even though they are technically illegal according to local ordinances.
In view of that reality, the village’s Parks Committee has begun an attempt to bring some common sense to regulating the popular backyard amenity.
Village ordinances say open burning is not allowed in the village, but Village Marshal Mike Davel told trustees at a recent Village Board meeting that officers will not be instructed to enforce the restriction unless complaints are received.
Davel said his department recently issued a citation to a resident who allowed an uncontrolled fire on his property but not to people enjoying the warm glow of a fire pit in their yard.
Parks Committee members hope they can resolve that apparent conflict by tweaking the ordinance to set safe standards for fire pit use.
“Fire pits have become a huge thing for landscaping. Some are even designed into decks,” said Trustee Lisa Dohrwardt.
Trustee Jill Bertram, chairman of the committee, agreed the growing popularity of the devices should be addressed.
“The fact is everyone is doing it. Either we should enforce the restrictions we want to see or drop the ordinance,” Bertram said.
She said she has heard from a woman who repeatedly complained to the fire department about a neighbor burning in a fire pit, even though enforcement of such regulations would be through the marshal’s department.
Bertram said she liked many of the guidelines established by Port Washington on the use of fire pits, whether they are in-ground burning areas or portable units.
The Port rules say the designated burning area should be surrounded by non-combustible material, such as metal, brick or masonry. Pits can be no wider than three feet in diameter and no more than two feet in height.
Committee members also liked the requirement that fires be allowed in fire pits only while they are being tended, and that a fire extinguisher or source of water be readily available.
Trustees felt the village ordinance should be a little more restrictive than Port’s on how close to a building or combustible material a fire pit should be allowed.
“The Port ordinance says it should be no closer than 25 feet, but that would mean you would have to put your fire pit in your neighbor’s yard in some areas of Fredonia,” Trustee Don Dohrwardt said.
The committee recommended 15 feet as the minimum distance from buildings for portable fire pits, while setting that distance at 25 feet for in-ground burning areas.
Taking a slightly more permissive approach to fuel choices than are allowed in Port, the committee recommended that seasoned firewood be allowed, along with untreated wood pallets and scrap wood. Painted or treated lumber would not be allowed as a source of fuel.
If the Village Board adopts the regulations, officials said existing in-ground pits would continued to be allowed where they are.
Bertram said it is difficult to craft an ordinance, anticipating any potential problem that could surface.
“I’d like to find a way to tell people to just use common sense and be considerate of the people around you,” she said.