Letters to the Editor

Burn Ordinance Progress


While additional delay in the process of getting a new outdoor burning ordinance for Bellevue is disappointing to those of us with allergic and other respiratory health problems, I must say I felt encouraged by our mayor's and council member Mark Panichella's comments. Mayor George Doscher and Mr. Panichella both agreed at the June council workshop meeting that our new ordinance needs to have "teeth" to it, an enforcement component.

Our fire marshal came up with a reasonable and cost-free annual recreational burning permit but Doscher and Panichella emphasized that the permit alone is not enough. This makes sense. Back in April our borough solicitor submitted a draft ordinance on open fires and open burning to council. Did that get lost in the shuffle over the past two months? While that draft does not include a permit it does include specific penalties…for violations of the rules.

The hard work is done. Going forward, it seems a relatively simple task for the public safety committee to merge the solicitor's draft ordinance with the fire marshal's permit in order to protect Bellevue's most vulnerable citizens. As the solicitor told us, his draft is basically restating what guidelines are already in place under the Allegheny County Health Department. As the fire marshal told us, a permit will allow him to verify that all recreational burners are informed and compliant with the borough's basic fire safety rules. Perhaps the solicitor should simply be authorized to add the annual permit to the ordinance he's already drafted.

I like to think that Bellevue will soon join company with other forward-thinking municipalities where citizen health and safety really matter. We're working with the Allegheny Together program to redesign and promote our business district and community as charming and walkable and all. More than once this year I've had to roll up my car windows while driving on Lincoln Avenue to try to get past the pervasive odor of wood smoke. Sadly, I no longer consider an evening's walk on the avenue anymore for fear of having to make it home through a dirty cloud and ending up with another sick headache and sore throat. How quaint and upscale a business district does that make? What quality of life for the community? As William Wheeler, the fire marshal in Elmira, NY, put it, "Burning is an option; breathing is not."

Carol A. Wivell

Google Video