May 21, 2010

Update: Committee puts off vote on backyard fires ordinance

A city committee is considering restrictions on backyard fires in Racine.

The Public Safety and Licensing Committee will take up an ordinance Monday that would limit the number of fires homeowners can have in their backyard, the location of the fires and when the fires can occur. 

The proposal would add three provisions to city code regulating backyard fires. They include:

* Making it illegal to burn more than three times a week in a permanent or portable outdoor fireplace unless you have a permit from the Fire Department

* Making it illegal to burn within 10 feet of a property line or structure

* Limiting fires to between noon and 11 p.m.

The ordinance is sponsored by Alderman Aron Wisneski, chairman of the Public Safety and Licensing Committee. It would revise Section 18-369 of the municipal code, which relates to "Outdoor fireplaces and outdoor cooking facilities."

Read the committee agenda here.

Update: The Public Safety and Licensing Committee voted to defer action until they can get input from Fire Chief Steve Hansen.

Alderman Jim Kaplan seemed open to the proposal to limit backyard fires. He said the fires are becoming more common because people can't afford to go camping any more.

"I want to go camping in my back yard and I'll fill my neighbor's house with smoke to do that," he imagined someone saying who has backyard fires.

Kaplan added that home owners and renters should take care of their own property without interfering with their neighbors. Things like music or a smoky fire cross property lines and can affect people who shouldn't have to deal with someone else's activities.

Alderman David Maack said he didn't think the three fires per week proposal was enforceable because no one will keep track of how many fires a person has. He added that if the ordinance moves forward he would like to see the cutoff point moved back an hour to midnight.

"I think that's reasonable," he said. "I don't think it's reasonable to cavort until 2 or 3 in the morning."

City Attorney Rob Weber told the committee the police department believes current ordinances are confusing. They have asked for standards to be given to enforcing backyard fires.

Fire Chief Steve Hansen declined to comment Monday night on the proposal. He said he needed to consult with his notes before taking a position on the ordinance.  


  1. What's the purpose of this?

  2. This is B.S. I understand that some people are inconsiderate with their burning but I enjoy being able to have a small fire in MY backyard every now and then. Lets be realistic here how many people are having a fire more than 3 times a week. That 3 days seems ok but when I do have a fire its usually when I'm having company and we'll sit outside until well beyond 11. I don't see the point of the time restrictions. Seems like another useless law trying to get past because Ald. Wisneski had an extremely small group complain about an even smaller number of people. I don't fault the alderman for looking out for his constituents but this just seems to be like killing a fly with a shotgun.

  3. "when I do have a fire its usually when I'm having company and we'll sit outside until well beyond 11. " THAT's why! smoke pouring in the windows when folks trying to sleep at night and the constant smell. It's not just about what you want. This is needed and yes, I have a fire pit.

  4. "Smoke pouring in" come on. My point is we don't need to legislate everything. Like i said common sense can take the place of laws. If I have a problem with my neighbor doing something, I go over and talk about it. If I were having a fire and a neighbor had a problem with it because of the smoke, which if the smoke was blowing right toward my neighbor i would put it out anyways, i would gladly be neighborly and put the fire out.

    "It's not just about what you want", no really?? I never said it was about me but the basis of my argument is that we don't need more laws that common sense or a simple phone call or walk over to the neighbors can take care of. And if your going to say my neighbor won't listen or i shouldn't have to tell them its bothering me, then you either have bigger problems with your neighbor or your just lazy. Now i understand if it happens over and over getting more than frustrated but saying i need to stop using my property at 11 o'clock just in case someone might be bothered, bothers me.

    And good for you that you have a fire pit. I assume that you use it with consideration for your neighbors, as I do also.

  5. Existing ORD


    Sec. 50-261. Prohibition.
    No person shall kindle, start or maintain any rubbish fire or open fire for the burning of combustible materials without a permit from the fire department. This section shall not apply to fires set for training or instruction in firefighting, for testing of fire equipment, for cooking, unless such cooking is done in a manner which imposes a risk of personal injury or property damage, or for events of community interest where written permission has been granted by the fire chief.
    (Ord. No. 28-04, pt. 1, 9-7-04)

    Sec. 50-262. Supervision.
    To ensure life safety and to prevent fires from endangering surrounding property, all open fires shall be under continuous supervision until they are completely extinguished and the remaining embers are cold or have been thoroughly wet down.
    (Ord. No. 28-04, pt. 1, 9-7-04)

    Sec. 50-263. Notification of fire department; permit.
    (a) No person shall kindle or start an open fire without first obtaining a permit from the fire department.
    (b) The fire chief or his designee may prohibit fires when atmospheric conditions or legal circumstances make such fires hazardous or objectionable due to smoke or odor.
    (c) A permit fee of $100.00 shall be paid before issuance of a permit to burn.
    (Ord. No. 28-04, pt. 1, 9-7-04)

    Sec. 50-264. Violation of division.
    Except as provided in section 18-369 of the Racine Municipal Code, no person shall kindle, start or maintain an outdoor fire in violation of this division.
    (Ord. No. 28-04, pt. 1, 9-7-04)
    Secs. 50-265--50-370. Reserved.

  6. Existing ORD
    Sec. 18-369. Outdoor fireplaces and outdoor cooking facilities.
    (a) Permanent outdoor grilles, braziers, and similar appliances intended for the preparation of food shall be located and constructed in a manner approved by the fire chief. Portable braziers, grilles, and similar appliances used for the preparation of food may be used in any location which is not hazardous to life or property. No portable braziers, grilles, or similar appliances shall be permitted on or under any above grade combustible balcony or rescue platform.
    (b) Permanent outdoor fireplaces shall be located and constructed in a manner approved by the fire chief and the chief building inspector. Portable fireplaces intended for the purpose of outdoor recreational fires shall be approved by the Underwriters Laboratory, Factory Mutual, or other suitable testing agency authorized by the chief of the fire department. Portable fireplaces may only be used on noncombustible surfaces, such as dirt, grass, or concrete.
    (c) The use of all outdoor fireplaces shall adhere to the following guidelines:
    (1) Outdoor burning shall be prohibited when local circumstances make the fires potentially hazardous. Local circumstances include, but are not limited to, thermal inversions, wind, ozone alerts, and very dry conditions.
    (2) Materials and fuels used in outdoor fireplaces may not include rubbish, garbage, trash, construction waste, any material made of or coated with rubber, plastic, leather, hazardous chemical, or petroleum based materials, or any material that produces offensive smoke or odors.
    (d) Any fire in an outdoor fireplace or cooking facility which a reasonable person might consider to be smoky and/or otherwise offensive may be ordered extinguished by an officer of the police or fire department.
    (Ord. No. 29-01, pt. 3, 11-6-01)
    Secs. 18-370--18-380. Reserved.

  7. I think the City should just back away from this. This might just keep people from moving back into the city. This is not what we want.

  8. Ald. Aron Wisneski5/22/2010 11:48 AM

    First of all: I am listed as the sponsor because it is coming to the committee of which I am chairman; that is standard procedure for proposed ordinance changes. I did not author this - it is coming in to the Public Safety and Licensing committee because of complaints to the housing and fire departments over the last 2 years due to the explosion of "fire pits" in suburban backyards. Although I have had multiple neighbors call with complaints about this problem, I did not push for a change in the law.

    Limiting to 3 fires per week and end-time of 11 p.m. seems reasonable to me. During the summer months, neighbors want to be able to keep their windows open at night (many do not have air conditioning) and smoldering fires wafting into their bedrooms is a nuisance. Why is the smoke you create on your land any different than the loud rap music that your neighbors play? It is emanating from YOUR property, but it affects all of your neighbors. Everyone complains about thumping car stereos, and barking dogs, and neighbors playing their music too loud after dark. If your smoke went straight up in the air it wouldn't be a nuisance. But the smoke travels sideways, toward neighboring properties.

    As for the comment that THIS will keep people from moving back in: Your hyperbole is noted, but let's be realistic; If a minor ordinance such as this is what keeps someone from making the major life decision of where to live, chances are they are buying out in the country anyway.

  9. Thanks, Alderman for your input.

    And thanks to Anon 10:49 for posting the specific ordinance.

  10. Ald Wisneski,

    It is not one ordinance that is the problem. It is all the stupid ones that you pass that limits the rights of individual home owners. The City of Racine and specifically Rick Jones are on a "power trip" that has negative impact on home owners!

  11. Seems like all this is already covered ...

    "(d) Any fire in an outdoor fireplace or cooking facility which a reasonable person might consider to be smoky and/or otherwise offensive may be ordered extinguished by an officer of the police or fire department."

    ... unless what we're saying is that we want to go ahead and make smoky and/or otherwise offensive fires actually legal if they're 10 feet away from property lines, only three times a week and not after 11 p.m.

    This is a ridiculous abuse of legislation just adding further confusion to an already existing regulation.

    We already have a law that makes it possible for people to complain about smoky and obnoxious fires. We want to try to make what's already illegal extra-illegal somehow????

    Or inadvertently make it legal under certain conditions?

    Forget this. It's inane.

  12. ... besides, we'll need more backyard fires to cook all those backyard chickens when they start getting smelly and obnoxious.

  13. Holy crap I actually agree with Randolph 1:14pm

  14. I am truly glad that Crime,Unemployment, and RUSD have all been fixed so we have now micromanage life

  15. I think that the City of Racine should enact a new limit on the number of times a year the council and its various committees can meet. It seems that every time they meet some new way to control our lives or spend our money comes out. Maybe if the met less they would do less damage and create fewer controls.

    Anyone wonder why the Racine city population continues to go down while the surround area population increases? How about a resolution to limit the council to two meetings a year.

  16. I am just glad we have jobs coming in and crime on the run so we have time to worry about silly things like how many times a week people burn a fire in there backyard..... If this is such an issue how about we try something like enforcing the current rules and regulations and fining people after thier first warning. Silly me though I guess i dont have what it takes to run for office I have common sense...

  17. Ald. Wisneski, PLease stop micro managing our lives. We do NOT need more restrictions on our lives. Please focus on more pressing issues, as this city has plenty. Can you not strive to make more of a postive impact on this community? Do you not recognize the important problems facing this city? We would like you to please STOP taking up time with this ridiculous stuff which you and Helding continuously do. Focus on jobs, roads and improving our city, this is a joke and so are you. Thanks

  18. Next fire pits and grilling wont be allowed at all. This is foolish. Everyone enjoying their recycle bins?

  19. Again, thanks Ald. A. Wisneski! Yes, the smoke pours in - that's how close pool-man is to neighbor complaining. Fire out by 11:00PM IS reasonable. It's terrible & this ORD change is overdo! Our Ald wants chickens- my thanks to you- cluck cluck quack!

  20. But it is ok to burn whenever whatever (I've seen it) people like in every area but the city

  21. Anno 12:50PM help me? Where's the imbedded RFID chip in the cart? 'they' think we'll just 'drop it' & 'let it go' ....NOPE!

  22. Alderman Aron Wisneski is most likely pissed at a neighbor, and now wants to punish the whole city. I say we all take our fire pits and throw them in Alderman Aron Wisneski yard. These aldermen in racine are just in it for themselves. They do not care for the people of racine. We as a tax payers should stand up to these people, and vote them out!!! Aron get a life. We do not like you. Please leave and take the rest of your crue with you. Racine would be better off without people like Alderman Aron Wisneski shoving bull down our throats. Maybe instead of leaving Alderman Aron Wisneski jump in front of a bus.

  23. Alderman Aron Wisneski is another reason why I want to move out of Racine. Keep up the good work Aron.

  24. Anon 6:40 - It's safe to Alderman Wisneski isn't supporting restrictions on back yard fires for selfish interests. As he explained earlier, he's listed as the sponsor because he's chairman of the Public Safety and Licensing Committee. As for his support, he says the ordinance is a reaction to complaints from homeowners over the past two years. Some of those complaints are from people who commented on this story. It's reasonable to say this is a legitimate issue for the City Council to consider. As for whether it becomes law, we'll see.

  25. All I gotta say is "look at the state of this city" and then tell me just what the hell this lame mayor and city council has achevied? It's this kinda nonsense that they concern themselves with that pisses people off.

  26. This is a stupid idea that makes our teeny, tiny little city of racine sized yards no fun and a prison. It's a fire bowl, for heaven's sake - not a bon fire!!!!!

  27. Too many laws -

  28. Burn your recycling carts!

  29. "Alderman Aron Wisneski is most likely pissed at a neighbor, and now wants to punish the whole city."

    Most like Anon 6:40 scored really, really low of the reading comprehension section of the ACT.

  30. This is really a burning topic!

  31. Instead of fineing people who are enjoying themselves in an orderly way, on THEIR property, why don't you enforce the J-Walking ordinance? Drive down Wash Ave between uptown an downtown and give out tickets to those whom are really breaking a law! Spend your time fighting CRIME!