The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


June 28, 2013

Recreational burning generates heat

Officials scramble to craft legal remedy

SUNBURY — After a few weeks of hearing complaints to Sunbury City Council about outside burning, Mayor David Persing promises to change the current ordinance.  

According to the city code, residents can’t burn any type of garbage or refuse, but nothing in the law says residents can’t have fire pits or campfires in their yards.

Some residents began complaining weeks ago that smoke from the camp fires was blowing into homes and forcing people to shut their windows when it’s hot outside.

“Although Sunbury city code addresses most burning situations for refuse, it does not define recreational burning such as grills and backyard burning containers,” Persing said.

“We are gathering facts in hopes of addressing an addition to our ordinance to define recreational burning which would include gas and charcoal grills for food preparation.”

Some residents complained people were building fires in homemade devices, thus causing smoke that might be kept to a minimum if the unit was designed professionally.

City Clerk Terry Specht has been calling several other communities to see what ordinances are in place for burning in homemade devices in private homes back yards and she has come up short.

“No one seems to address this because it is so new to everyone,” she said. “We are working with several people on trying to figure out the best solution.”

Persing said the city will search small communities throughout the state.

“We will also be contacting other communities in Pennsylvania that may have passed ordinances in regard to outdoor burning,” he said. “It is my goal to have a new piece of legislation to discuss and hopefully pass on a first reading at our next City Council Meeting on July 8.”

An ordinance of this type may be hard to define because, if neighbors don’t get a long, they may not like the smoke that’s coming from the outside grill next door, Councilman Todd Snyder said.

“It’s one of those things that, if someone is purposely blowing the smoke then, of course, they should be punished,” he said.

“If you know how to control a backyard fire in order to let your kids roast marshmallows, I don’t see a problem with that.”

Snyder said the city can’t tell residents they can’t purchase professional devices to have back yard fire pits.

“A responsible person knows what to do,” he said.

“We can’t tell our residents they can’t go to a hardware store and purchase something because their neighbor isn’t smart enough to follow the rules. The people that aren’t doing this right should be punished and the people that are should be allowed to do what they are doing.”

Council meets again July 8 at city hall.


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