Policy sought on outdoor fires

By midsummer, the Gloversville Fire Department had already been called out about 50 times only to di

By midsummer, the Gloversville Fire Department had already been called out about 50 times only to discover that smoke reported as a possible illegal fire was actually coming from someone’s dinner.

Chief Douglas Edwards is working with the Common Council on a new ordinance designed to provide clarity on what constitutes a cooking fire and how that fire should be constructed and contained.

Edwards said Wednesday he would like to have a policy adopted by next spring. He has suggested cooking fires be built from 16-inch pieces of hardwood no more than 2 inches in diameter and that the fire be contained in a pit no larger than 18 inches by 18 inches.

While Councilman Ray Hindes has advocated a total ban on wood fires, Bleecker Street resident Gray Pitkin told the council on Tuesday that he considers 16-inch wood in an 18-inch pit a joke.

He said he cooks on a much larger fireplace built on a concrete slab and offered to help city officials formulate a new policy.

The current code is vague and open to interpretation, Edwards said. It speaks of small fires and small pieces of firewood, a definition he called unenforceable.

Edwards concedes the parameters he suggested are restrictive but said the thrust of his proposal is to ensure that small dry wood would quickly ignite in what he called a “free, open burn” with a minimum of smoke.

There was one fire call this summer, he said, in which firefighters encountered a homeowner cooking over a 3-foot-by-5-foot fireplace.

There is plenty of time for council discussion, as the outdoor cooking season is winding down. “I brought it up now so we have a long time to look at it,” Edwards said.

In Johnstown, Fire Chief Bruce Heberer said his department is called out on occasion because of a cooking fire. But, he said, it has not been much of an issue.

The Johnstown code does not define the size and type of fire allowed but does direct that cooking fires be as small as possible.

In both cities, non-cooking fires are prohibited outdoors — even when contained in the portable fireplaces designed for backyards.

Categories: Schenectady County

Leave a Reply