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Village of Massena updating code to include regulations on recreational fires

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MASSENA — The village board will hold a public hearing before its regularly scheduled meeting Feb. 18 to discuss changes to its code that would allow some forms of open burning inside the village limits. The hearing will be at 5:30 p.m.

According to the definition portion of the new law, a recreational fire is defined as “An outdoor fire burning materials other than rubbish where the fuel burned is contained in a container designed for burning and has a total fuel area or three feet or less in diameter and two feet or less in height for pleasure, religious, ceremonial, cooking, warmth, or similar purposes.”

The new regulations, which would allow such fires in the village, were proposed by Code Enforcement Officer Kenneth J. McGowan, who noted that despite the burn ban, many people were having recreational fires anyway.

“Basically the way we feel (is that) they’re out there. Any summer night you go for a walk and you can smell them,” he said when initially proposing the law last month. “What we want to see, if the village is going to allow it, let’s put something in place so they’re done safely — give the people some guidelines.”

Trustees Patricia K. Wilson and Francis J. Carvel, who serve on the fire committee, said they support the measure.

“I like the idea because people are doing it. Let’s make sure they do it in a safe way that’s not annoying their neighbors, burning stuff they shouldn’t burn; putting in the right code so they do it the right way, but allowing them to do it,” Ms. Wilson said.

Mr. Carvel said, “I think it’s a good idea. Like we said, they’re already doing it and this way here it at least gives them an idea of how they’re supposed to do it properly.”

While the proposed law does include several exemptions, the law states, “A recreational fire shall not be conducted within 25 feet of any building, structure, or combustible material unless the fire is contained in a barbecue pit or outdoor fireplace. Materials used for fuel for a recreational fire shall consist of seasoned wood only (not freshly cut or treated wood).”

Exceptions to the law include “cooking fires” or fires that are in an approved container.

According to the law, “approved containers” are defined as “a properly maintained and utilized barbecue grill, barbecue pit or outdoor fireplace that utilizes a spark-arresting screen and a lid or wherein products of combustion pass through a stack or chimney from an enclosed chamber.”

The law also includes a clause prohibiting “objectionable” fires.

“A recreational fire that is hazardous, offensive, objectionable, or unreasonably interferes with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property due to odor or smoke emissions shall be prohibited,” the law states.

Following the hearing, the board is expected to vote on whether to add the changes to the village code.

Johnson Newspapers writer Victor Barbosa contributed to this report.

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