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Plattsburgh Councilors Torch Proposed Fire Pit Ban

Plattsburgh City Hall (file)
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Plattsburgh City Hall

You know those round backyard barbecue-like fire pits that are so popular these days? The Plattsburgh City Council considered banning them during its most recent meeting.

The City Council voted on a proposed local law that would prohibit any open fires, except for the clearing of land with a permit. The ban included all small recreational fires. If a complaint were to be received from a permitted fire and a mitigated solution failed, the fire must be put out and the permit then revoked.

The local law was sponsored and introduced without comment by Ward 3 Democrat Elizabeth Gibbs at the council’s August 5th meeting.

“I’m introducing tonight Local Law P-5 and it is about open fires and small recreational fires.”

Gibbs’ move followed several discussions the council has had this year about recreational fire pits including on June 3rd during which she supported a citywide ban.

“It seems to me the issue is the backyard fires when the weather is nice people want to gather around and they want to socialize in the backyard. But the minute there’s smoke even from putting it out it’s an issue. Fires are for campsites.”

A public hearing on the proposed law was held before the council considered the measure during its most recent regular session. Residents had split opinions on the proposal.

Former Ward 1 Democrat Ira Barbell noted the idea has been controversial for a long time. He says fire pits are not a recreational problem but a public health concern.

“Wood smoke’s been around for centuries. It’s something we’re all familiar with. It’s not as innocuous a thing as it seems. Much like cigarette smoke wood smoke contains hundreds of air pollutants that can cause cancer and other health problems.”

“Carla Edwards. We have a fire pit and I understand the health concerns and if we’re looking at health concerns I don’t see how my burning wood in my fire pit is any different than my neighbor who has a wood fireplace in their house. No different than if I’m outside burning wood. If you’re going to ban burning wood then maybe it needs to be banned inside of the houses as well.”

“Hello my name is Scott Smith. I live in Ward 5. Every person I’ve spoken to at work and friends the very first question is why? We just don’t understand why it would be so important to create a local law in order to restrict individuals on their own property from doing something that makes them happy, gives them a little bit of a stress release. Especially when people are responsible.”

There was little comment on the proposed law as it came to a vote. Ward 2 Democrat Mike Kelly says he took a closer look at the original city ordinance in anticipation of the proposed change.

“It’s brought on a great discussion about fires and the problems and benefits of fires. And it forced me to go back and read the local law we passed about three years ago. And that was a good law and you know it doesn’t have to be the city enforcing everything.”

The resolution to ban fire pits in the city of Plattsburgh went down in flames on a 4 to 2 vote.