Como’s backyard fire ban survey results

Respondents overwhelmingly oppose banning recreational fires in St. Paul, according to a District 10 survey. But many survey participants say there should be more courtesy and education about the use and impact of backyard recreational fires.

District 10’s Land Use Committee conducted the survey after a neighborhood resident contacted the committee about the impact that recreational fires have on her health. Some 502 people took the online survey between Aug. 17 and Sept. 5.

Here are some results of the survey:

  • 16 percent of survey participants say they support a ban on recreational fires; 81 percent oppose a ban.
  • 20 percent of survey participants say they support limiting the number of recreational fires individuals can have in one year; 70 percent oppose such limits.
  • Nearly two-thirds of survey participants say they have recreational fires in their yard; slightly more than one-third do not. Among those who have fires, more than 99 percent oppose a ban. Among participants who do not have fires, 41 percent support a ban.
  • Nearly one-quarter of survey participants say smoke from recreational fires bothers them and nearly as many say smoke affects their health.

Recreational fires are legal in the City of St. Paul if they meet certain conditions. The challenge is that smoke from the fires travels into surrounding homes and can affect neighbors in the general area. Many survey participants noted that to be good neighbors, residents should burn only clean, dry wood or install a fire ring that uses natural gas. Other comments highlight other themes and contradictions surrounding backyard fires:

  • The same fire that allows some neighbors to enjoy their private property prevents other neighbors from enjoying their property—or enjoying nice weather—and instead forces them indoors behind closed windows.
  • Fires can enhance community and friendship for some people but cause health problems for others.
  • Current laws already outlaw burning trash, construction materials or yard waste, but these laws are poorly enforced.

Many survey participants, including those who support fires, urged neighbors to be more respectful of how fires impact others. They suggested that conflicts could and should be worked out courteously, face-to-face. Among their ideas:

  • Notify neighbors before you start a fire.
  • Have fires only during colder times of the year.
  • Do not have fires late at night.
  • Pay attention to weather conditions—including wind, air inversions, air quality alerts and dry conditions—before deciding to have a fire.
  • If fires bother you, let neighbors who have fires know that fact.

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