PLATTSBURGH — City of Plattsburgh councilors approved new regulations for outdoor recreational fires with an eye on safety.
"This is an attempt to improve safety for residents and to educate people that their actions do have consequences for those next to you," Councilor Becky Kasper (D-Ward 5) said at the recent Common Council meeting.
She offered a resolution regulating outdoor fires in the city after hearing complaints from some constituents.
She noted there were no definitive measures on the city books regarding fires, so questions were left for the Police and Fire departments or Building Inspector's Office to deal with.
WHAT WILL BE ALLOWED
The resolution allows for fires in spaces no larger than 3 feet in diameter and 3 feet in height for legitimate cooking, warmth, recreational or ceremonial purposes contained in some type of controlled area or enclosure.
A stone surround, fire pit, brick barbecue, metal fire stand or clay chiminea are acceptable forms of fire containers, according to the resolution.
They also must have some kind of spark arrestor, such as screen, to prevent embers from flying away.
Fires must be at least 25 feet away from any structure or combustible materials.
FIRE CAN BE PUT OUT
If someone complains and the Fire Department determines a fire to be a nuisance, it will be extinguished, the resolution says.
Kasper said that was included to ensure that people with respiratory illnesses or other ailments have recourse if their neighbors are inadvertently smoking them out.
"Safety was pre-eminent with this law," she said.
"The laws we had are ill-defined, and this gives us an opportunity to apply the law fairly, consistently and uniformly."
Resident Carol Klepper of Couch Street noted that in older areas of the city, homes are very close to each other.
She thinks even stricter regulations are needed.
She suggested the council amend the resolution to require people to get a permit before having a backyard fire.
Kasper said requiring permits could be unwieldy.
"It would be like trying to license cats," she said. "And many people won't seek permits.
"This is an attempt to balance people's freedom to have a fire but to make sure they also have consideration for their neighbors."
Councilor Josh Kretser (D-Ward 6) said that without definitive rules, the city needed to do something.
"This creates a more clear definition for something that was not clearly defined," he said.
"We may need to make some changes to this, but this gives us more control than we have now."
Councilors unanimously approved the new law, which goes into effect immediately.
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