If you've got a fire pit in Geneva, you soon may be able to use it legally—so long as you understand and .
On Monday night, the Geneva City Council Committee of Whole recommended approval of a draft ordinance that will allow fire pits and other types of "recreational burning" within city limits.
The recommendation passed 7-2, with 5th Ward Alderman Craig Maladra and 4th Ward Alderman Ron Singer opposed.
The revised ordinance will allow the use of portable chimenea, permanent or stationary fire pits and barbecue grills—with limits. For the full ordinance, go to , but here are a few of the restrictions:
- Fires can only take place between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m.
- A fire pit will be limited to no more than 36 inches in diameter and 24 inches deep, and must be surrounded by a barrier that's at least 6 inches tall.
- When you are burning "recreationally," the wind has to be less than 10 mph.
- Fires have to be constantly attended by a person over the age of 18.
- You can only burn untreated, unpainted, seasoned dry wood and manufactured fire logs. Propane and similar gases may be burned. Burning of processed wood is prohibited.
The fine for a violation can range from $50 to $750 and is up to the discression of the officer that issues a citation.
The council members agreed they would be willing to try the new ordinance for a year, and make changes if necessary.
"We have asked our city officers to make subjective judgments. This is what we pay them for, this is what they're hired for, I trust them to do that," 1st Ward Alderman Charles Brown said. "I think the wording is quite reasonable at this moment, and it's important that we're going to look at this again in a year."
Several prominent Genevans testified at the podium, for and against an ordinance change.
Fire Chief Steve Olson said he wouldn't offer his opinion on fire pits or whether the present ordinance should be amended, but he told the committee that the restrictions outlined in the draft ordinance "are reasonable."
Former Geneva Alderman Robert Langeness said his neighbors "saw fit to have a bonfire" one night and noted that many of the older lots in Geneva are just 50 by 100 feet.
Former Geneva Park District Director Steve Persinger spoke in favor of fire pits. "I haven't had any complaints from my neighbors," he said. "And if you drive around town, you see a lot of fire pits."
Pat Jaeger, Geneva Township supervisor, argued that allowing recreational fires would infringe on the rights and quality of life of senior citizens. He said 5 percent of the population—many of whom are seniors—suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.
"It does effect that segment of our population," he said.
Singer tried to make two amendments to the proposal. One was to require U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approval of all wood-burning devices purchased for use in Geneva. That died for lack of a second.
The other suggestion was to raise the minimum fine from $50 to $100. The amendment failed 8-1.
Maladra said he didn't buy the argument that the prevalence of fire pits was a reason to change the present ordinance.
"It's sounds like they're saying, 'Because I am breaking the law, I want you to change the law,' which doesn't hold a whole lot of water with me," he said.
Third Ward Alderman Dawn Vogelsberg said a big challenge is and has been educating the public about the rules for open burning.
"I don't think people feel bound by an ordinance they don't know about," she said. "I'm not sure how to get the word out to people, but I think if they knew it was against the law, they wouldn't do it."
On the point of informing the public, Maladra agreed wholeheartedly.
"If we make this change," he said, "we've got a whole lot of teaching to do."