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Sparking debate

Weehawken moves to ban wood burning in outdoor fire pits

Wood burns in a fire pit, by Shutterstock.

Weehawken has moved to ban wood-burning fires in outdoor fire pits, following numerous complaints.

The Weehawken Township Council introduced an ordinance banning the practice at the virtual council meeting on Oct. 29. According to Mayor Richard Turner, residents can still have outdoor fires using gas or propane.

Embers and smoke

Turner said some residents had complained about the smoke, many of them with lung conditions such as asthma. Embers have also raised concerns about spreading fire.

“Given the density we have, we feel very strongly in favor of this ordinance,” said Turner who noted that complaints have been on the rise.

Resident Roger Desmond asked if the ordinance banned indoor wood burning fires, too, considering they create smoke just like those in outdoor fire pits.

Turner responded that only fires burning in outdoor pits are prohibited under the proposed ordinance.

Fireplaces and cigarettes?

According to Desmond, indoor burning in indoor fireplaces and cigarettes create embers, and the ordinance should ban those as well.

Turner said that they’ve never had complaints about embers from chimneys and that many fireplaces have protective devices to prevent the spread of embers. Turner noted that the council does not have the authority to ban cigarette smoking.

Desmond noted that currently, if a neighbor complains about a wood- burning fire in a pit, the fire department arrives and asks that the fire be put out. He questioned how that differs from the ordinance.

Turner said the township is passing the ordinance, so the fire department doesn’t have to deal with the issue on a case-by-case basis.

When Desmond said that charcoal grills created embers and smoke and should be banned, too, Turner told him to save it for the public hearing for the ordinance in November.

Years of complaints

Another resident said his neighbor had frequently burned anything and everything in a fire pit, which caused frequent issues with embers.

Whenever the man complained, the fire department told him that it was the neighbor’s right to have a fire in his backyard.

Turner said that prior to the proposed ordinance, residents were allowed to burn wood in a fire pit in their backyards, but that they needed to be responsible. Since many residents were not being responsible, the township took action.

According to Turner, Weehawken has been trying to control the problem for years.

Turner said the township is looking to initiate eminent domain on that man’s neighbor, due to the neighbor’s reckless behavior; his house had apparently burned down numerous times.

A public hearing on the ordinance may be held at the next council meeting on Nov. 5. For more information, visit weehawken-nj.us.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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