Here's the Draft Ordinance on Open Burning and Fire Pits

Want to know the details of the rules and regulations being considered in Geneva? Here is the draft ordinance recommended by the City Council Committee of the Whole. The full City Council has yet to approve the draft.

Here is the draft ordinance amending the city's open burning provisions, as presented in the Geneva City Council Committee of the Whole packet of Oct. 24, 2011:


Section 307 Open Burning

Section 307.1 Definitions: Unless the context otherwise requires, the following terms as used in this chapter shall be construed according to the definitions given below:

A. "Brush" means tree trunks, logs, limbs, branches and twigs.

B. "Landscape waste"means flowers, grass and grass clippings, leaves, pine needles, roots, shrubbery clippings, weeds and any other significant accumulation of small landscape waste materials.

C. "Open burning" means the burning of any materials outdoors.

D. "Processed wood" means natural wood to which is added glue and other adhesives, paint, polyurethane, stain, varnish or other such materials or which is treated with chemicals or other substances to change the character of the wood. Processed wood includes, but is not limited to furniture, particle board, plywood, Wolmanized lumber and similar wood materials.

E. "Self-contained outdoor burning device” means a freestanding or stationary apparatus that contains a burn chamber that prevents the products and omissions from combustion from immediately entering the ambient air by use of a chimney, flue, baffle, screen, grill, hood or other similar device.

F. “Recreational Fire” means a fire set for cooking, warming, enjoyment, or ceremonial purposes.

Section 307.2 Open Fires: The open burning of any paper, garbage, refuse, waste, brush, leaves, clippings, wood, landscape waste or other combustible or offensive material is prohibited, with the exception of the following:

A. Fires set by a public official in the performance of an official duty. 1. Permit Required: A permit shall be obtained from the fire code official prior to kindling a fire for:

a. Any recognized study, cultivation, and management of forest trees (silvicultural), horticultural burns, or wildlife management practices,

b. Prevention or control of disease or pests, or

c. A bonfire.

B. Fires used for private or public recreational purposes:

1. Self-contained outdoor burning device: Recreational fires may be burned in a chimenea, outdoor fireplace, or fire pit that is prefabricated. All parts, including, but not limited to, screen, lid, and grate shall be used according to the manufacturer's direction.

2. Permanent or stationary fire pits: Each outdoor fire pit shall be dug into the ground in a manner that will prevent the burn materials from falling out of the pit. The above grade portion of the pit shall be constructed of stone, masonry, metal, or other similar noncombustible materials. The bottom of the pit shall be below grade and shall be comprised of gravel, stone, or dirt. The total open area of the pit shall no more than thirty six inches (36") in diameter and no more than twenty four inches (24") in depth(from the bottom of the pit to the top of the above-grade materials. The pit shall be surrounded by a noncombustible barrier that is at least six inches (6") above the coals or ash within the pit. A ring of sand, dirt, or other noncombustible material approximately thirty six inches (36") wide shall be provided around the pit to provide separation for combustibles. No plant material shall be allowed within said thirty six inch (36") ring.

3. Outdoor stationary fire places approved and inspected by the Building Official.

C. Barbecue grills designed for cooking food with fire.

Section 307.3 Regulations Applying to Fires used for Private or Public Recreational Purposes

A. Location: Portable fire places shall be located on a noncombustible, hard, level surface when in use, such as, but not limited to, concrete, paver bricks, or asphalt.

1. All outdoor fire places including fire pits, permanent fire places, and portable fire places shall be located a minimum of ten feet (10 ft.) from the nearest property line. B. Distances from Structures and Combustibles: Structures and combustibles include, but are not limited to, homes, garages, sheds, playhouses, wood decks, wood fences, trees, bushes, and other items that are combustible. The following distances from structures and combustibles shall be maintained for all recreational fires:

1. A minimum clearance of twenty five feet (25') from all structures and combustibles shall be maintained for fire pits, stationary outdoor fire places, or prefabricated portable units where the total fuel area is thirty six inches (36") or less in diameter and twenty four inches (24") or less in height.

2. A minimum clearance of fifteen feet (15') from all structures and combustibles shall be maintained for prefabricated portable fire pits, chimeneas or similar outdoor wood burning devises, where the total fuel area is thirty inches (30") or less in diameter and twenty four inches (24") or less in height.

C. Approved Fuel: Wood burning recreational fires shall be limited to burning untreated, unpainted, clean, seasoned, dry wood and manufactured fire logs. Propane and other similar gases may also be burned. Burning of processed wood is strictly prohibited.

D. Supervision: Recreational fires shall be constantly attended by a person over the age of eighteen (18), until the fire is extinguished.

E. Extinguishment: On site fire extinguishing equipment, such as dirt, sand, water, garden hose, or fire extinguisher shall be available when any permanent fire structure or self- contained outdoor burning device or fire pit is in use.

F. Odors and Fumes: Escape or emission from any source whatsoever of fumes or odors that are detrimental or injurious to the property, health, safety, comfort or welfare of inhabitants of the community is hereby declared to be a public nuisance, as determined by the City, and is punishable by a fine. The City may determine and order the extinguishment of any burning that creates a nuisance by the emission of smoke or noxious gases upon a neighboring property, or contributes to a hazardous condition to health or life safety.

G. Smoke Generation: Recreational fires must be maintained in such a manner as to minimize the generation of smoke. Smoke that is a result of a smoldering or dying fire shall be prohibited. Generation of such smoke is considered a public nuisance punishable by a fine.

H. Hours: Recreational fires are prohibited between the hours of eleven o'clock (11:00) P.M. and six o'clock (6:00) A.M. Fires must be extinguished in such a manner that all air to the fire is cut off or the burning material is wet down with water until it is cool to the touch.

I. Maximum Duration: The fire shall not burn for more than a total of four (4) hours in any twenty four (24) hour period of time.

J. Weather Conditions: Burning is prohibited when winds exceed ten (10) miles per hour, on cloudy days, during announced inversion conditions or ozone alerts, or other local circumstances that make such fires hazardous.

K. Inspections: Inspections may be conducted by the City Fire Department, Police

Department, and/or Building Office at such times as deemed necessary by the City.

Section 307.4 Violations: Any person convicted of a violation of any section or provision of this chapter, where no other penalty is set forth, shall be punished by a fine of not less than fifty dollars ($50.00) nor more than seven hundred fifty dollars ($750.00) for any one offense.

In the Ordinance: “That this Ordinance 2011-XX shall be effective for one year from the date of passage, unless subsequent action is taken by the City Council.

Laurie October 25, 2011 at 07:13 PM
If you live next door to a fire pit, the air quality is worse than that of recent Minn. wildfires! Section 307.3 F is too vague and subject to interpretation! Do I have to ask the City each time to deem my neighbor’s burn a nuisance? Might I show you my asthma inhaler prescription and be done with this issue permanently? 4 hours? As an asthmatic, this leaves me unable to enjoy our deck all night. Additionally, I have to choke while taking our dog out in the yard on a leash. Winds < 10 mph still carry smoke into my yard that lingers in the trees and backyard hours beyond the burn period. Why do we want to allow this open burning? I was thrilled when Geneva Township could no longer burn leaves and I could open windows. Now living in Geneva, I cannot do this, as I never know when my neighbor is going to create a large log fire in his built-in pit! Once my house is filled with smoke it's too late…then my only option is to quickly grab my inhaler and cough and shake all night long from the side effects. Lastly, please do not consider grandfathering any previously built fire pits that are larger or closer to building structures than outlined in this proposal. (My neighbors did not show their fire pit on their patio plans originally registered with the city...it was not legal then--but city inspectors office said they couldn't make them remove it during final inspections)
Mike October 25, 2011 at 08:34 PM
Simple solution.......MOVE
Laurie October 25, 2011 at 08:52 PM
Why? I lived here several years before the house next door was built...and fire pit people aren't original buyers.
Mike October 25, 2011 at 09:01 PM
Talk to your "fire pit" people....you sure vented to The Patch with all your problems.
Mike October 25, 2011 at 09:04 PM
And were did you get 4 hours from????
Laurie October 25, 2011 at 09:09 PM
See "I" above in Section 303.7 I. Maximum Duration: The fire shall not burn for more than a total of four (4) hours in any twenty four (24) hour period of time.
Mike October 25, 2011 at 09:13 PM
Got it. Did you speak to your "fire pit neighbors???
Laurie October 25, 2011 at 09:15 PM
I have...this also isn't just my problem...ask others with asthma how well they tolerate smoke from camp fires...that's why we don't go camping! Unfortunately, the campground has come to us here at home...
Mike October 25, 2011 at 09:34 PM
It seems either you have a horrible neighbor or you're a picky one
Colin C. October 27, 2011 at 11:33 PM
I think that some people are missing important things about this proposed ordinance. I've spoken with over a hundred people about this in the last year and have come to these conclusions. First I think that just about everyone in Geneva who wants a fire pit already has one and uses it. There won't be a rush to get new fire pits and suddenly fill the air with smoke. Current users are either unaware of the ban on burning or keep a couple of hot dogs handy for "cooking" so as to get around it. The problem is that the City has no "teeth" in it's old ordinance to enforce compliance with safe, non-nuisance burning. All they can do is ask the offender to put it out. The new ordinance regulates the size of the fire, its placement, time that it can burn, what can be burned and levies substancial fines for creating a hazard or nuisance. It provides, for the first time, real regulatory power and motivation for being careful. I would suggest that if you have a problem with a neighbor's burning that you approach that person, explain your problem, and ask that they not use their fire pit unless the wind is blowing smoke away from your house or use the "synthetic" fire place logs that produce no smoke. If that doesn't work then you should complain and the City can use this regulation to "encourage" better behavior from your neighbor. Right now they don't really have that explicit power regarding fire pits. The new ordinance should improve things, not make them worse.
Laurie October 29, 2011 at 04:45 PM
Unfortunately, some neighbors feel fire is an inalienable right…talking and explaining health reasons has fallen on deaf ears, or I would not be commenting here. Now said neighbors need not have a “cooking ruse” and can legally burn freely 4 hours per day…before it was harder for them to pretend to cook for 4 hours. As for “teeth” for the City to enforce rules and regulations regarding fire pit usage, now someone from the police / fire department needs to measure distance, diameter, duration, and check to see that back yard fires are not smoldering, and then make a judgment call about the nebulous paragraph “F” nuisance determination. It would be much easier to BAN all open burning in Geneva! Those yearning for backyard fires can go to a campground, rather than send their neighbors to their inhalers, nebulizers, and / or the ER for breathing treatments! Open burning is a nuisance and environmentally unwarranted.
Preposterous July 16, 2012 at 09:00 AM
Hi Laurie, I agree with Mike that you have the right to move. It is not the fault of your neighbors that you have a respiratory condition. While they may be inconsiderate, you have an unusual condition that would not bother most people. If you found you were allergic to nuts, you would probably move if you were next to a peanut farm, you would not expect local legislatures to ban peanut faming. If you lived in Alaska and found you were prone to chest infections - you would probably move somewhere to the south. You are not within your rights to impose your condition on your neighbors. It has nothing to do with them. You can ask, you can persuade, but you cannot impose. This is unreasonable on your part.


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