In the past week, more days than not, my neighborhood has been filled with smoke, sometimes as early as 7 am in the morning. I don’t mean the pleasant barbecue aromas from propane, or even small charcoal grills that we can expect this time of year. I mean SMOKE, some of it so acrid, your eyes burn and you can’t help but cough. I haven’t smelled anything so bad since Norristown outlawed the burning of trash and yard waste back when I was a kid. Now people seem to be burning all sorts of stuff on their outdoor fires.
Not only that, but people are throwing wood into their propane grills. Well, everyone likes that nice smoky taste in their burgers, right? Except that when you do it too close to your house or your neighbors’ houses, it’s a serious fire and health hazard. We have laws against that in N-Town. And I guess it’s time for a refresher course on them.
Here’s information from The Norristown Fire Department’s site:
Municipal Ordinance 10-04 of 2010 adopted the 2009 edition of the International Fire Code.
--Can we burn rubbish, trash, grass, weeds or any other material that emits smoke directly into the air?
Section 307.1.1 of the 2009 International Fire Code prohibits the burning of these materials in which the smoke does not pass through a stack or chimney.
--Can we have a recreational outdoor fire where the material being burned is not contained in an incinerator, outdoor fire place, portable outdoor fireplace, and barbeque grill or barbeque pit?
Section 307.4.2 of the 2009 International Fire Code permits Recreational Fires as long they conform to the following regulations.
1. Fires shall not be conducted within 25 feet of a structure or combustible materials. (All of my neighbors who burn wood do so on or near their porches, within about 15 feet of their back doors and less than 25 feet from at least one neighbor.)
2. Fire must be 3 feet or less in diameter and 2 feet or less in height.
3. Portable outdoor fireplaces shall always be used in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions.
4. All types of burning must be constantly attended until the fire is extinguished. A fire extinguisher with a 4-A rating, dirt, sand, water barrel or garden hose shall also be available for immediate use. (The only substance I’ve seen kept available for immediate use is beer.)
--Can I grill on my porch or balcony?
Section 308.1.4 of Municipal Ordinance 11-08 of 2011 prohibits the use of all charcoal burners and other open-flame cooking devices on combustible porches and balconies or within 10 feet of combustible construction. (The people in one of the row houses along our alley light up a large wood fire in a grill on their wooden deck, within 8 feet of their door and no more than 10 feet from neighbors’ houses on either side. They do this pretty much every clear night that the temperature is above freezing.)
Obviously, not following these ordinances is a fire hazard (and really, do we need more tragic fires in our town)? But also, there’s bound to be residents in every neighborhood who shouldn’t be breathing in smoke—the elderly, people with medical conditions, young children and babies, pregnant women, etc.
So I’d like to ask the people of Norristown to think of your neighbors. Don’t burn trash or yard waste at all. Don’t burn wood close to your home or your neighbors’ houses, and never leave your grill open and smoking after you’re done cooking.
For the Municipality, can’t Codes or the Fire Department, or even the NPD, enforce these ordinances somehow? I realize most of the violations are on weekends, but what good are ordinances if the residents can’t rely on them to protect their safety?