The Newton City Council directed city staff to another look at the definitions of what is and what is not allowed under its burning ordinance following resident complaints about consistency of enforcement.
Years ago, the council - after much public debate - enacted a burning ordinance that disallows the burning of leaves. However, a number of exclusions in the ordinance which allow for recreational fires, the burning of yard trimmings and other residential waste have prompted resident complaints that one man's recreational fire is another man's pallet pyre.
Of particular concern, residents noted, is the allowance for the burning of residential waste and trade waste. While a contractor would likely be barred from burning the residue from a construction site, a homeowner might find no problem from authorities in burning scrap wood collected from around-the-house projects over the years.
In addition, though residents cannot burn leaves that have fallen from trees in the fall, they are allowed to burn landscape waste such as trees, tree trimmings with attached leaves, branches, stumps, brush and weeds.
Newton Fire Chief Jarrod Wellik stated in a report to council that over the course of the current 11 months of the fiscal year, there have been 53 citizen complaints over open buring. Of those complaints, 21 were found to be legal under the current Newton regulations, 10 were for burning leaves, six for barred items and four for unattended fires. There were nine other incidents where nothing was found or other complaints.
Only one municipal infraction for an open burning violation was issued by the department in the last 11 months.
Wellik noted that most people readily comply when fire department officials ask them to extinguish fires that generate complaints from neighbors.