D.R. Council asked to stiffen fire, smoke rules
July 15. 2014 12:17PM
The Dell Rapids City Council is being asked to revisit its nuisance laws after a resident complained he has no way to stop his neighbors from lighting fires that waft smoke onto his property.
Longtime Dell Rapids resident Russ Miller lives on the 400 block of east Ninth Street. His neighbors, he told aldermen Monday night, regularly use a recreational fire pit in their back yard and he’s concerned about the effect the smoke is having on his family’s health.
“If someone is having a fire pit next door, and smoke is coming over into my property, into my air space, that is hazardous to my health and I would like to have a city ordinance in place so that can be rectified by a law enforcement officer,” he said.
Existing code doesn’t prohibit the burning of fires in city limits, only what can be burned – burning anything but wood in a fire pit or stove is illegal.
Miller said wood smoke is toxic, just like tobacco smoke, and warrants the attention of City Hall.
“Wood smoke is a second hand smoke just like tobacco is a second hand smoke,” he said. “Wood smoke is actually more toxic than tobacco smoke. It is a carcinogen and actually causes cancer.”
Making fire pits illegal isn’t Miller’s end goal, he said. Rather, he wants wood smoke added to the city’s list of nuisances, which includes dead animals, accumulating garbage and burning garbage.
“It’s like a person having a dead animal in their yard. That is a nuisance because of the smell. Smoke is a nuisance because of the smell also,” Miller said. “If you can smell wood smoke, you’re breathing pollution that is hazardous to your health.”
But city officials are skeptical that further regulation of fire pits and the smoke they produce is feasible or enforceable.
Mayor Scott Fiegen said many Dell Rapids residents enjoy fire pits in their backyard, use in-home fireplaces and some even heat their homes with wood-burning stoves, which can easily be smelled during the winter months.
“How would you separate a fire place from a fire pit? Because you can easily smell a fire place burning from the outside just like you can a fire pit,” he said.
Alderman Mark Crisp agreed.
“The wife and I walk the dog regularly year round and there are a few homes in our neighborhood that heat their homes with wood and you can smell it for blocks,” he said. “And it didn’t bother us, it’s kind of a neat smell.”
The council took no action, but is expected to revisit the topic at a future meeting.
In the last 11 years, the city council has considered beefing up its rules regarding fire pits and smoke nuisance on three occasions. Each time city officials declined to reform its ordinances.