Letters to the Editor 5-25-12

I believe that the citizens in favor of an ordinance regulating recreational fires should have their side represented and so I am writing this letter. To be honest, most of us with this opinion would like such fires banned, but regulations are a great first step in the right direction. All we want is the right to clean air. I feel good about the current Bellevue mayor and council's course of action at this time. I have spoken to many residents who express their unhappiness with the burning of specifically "fire pits" or "chimineas," but lack the courage or time to contact the borough about it, are afraid of repercussions from the recreational fire users, or they are the type to just suffer in silence thinking their opinion won't count. I myself have run into a lot of opposition from specifically fire pit users, and while it is upsetting, I am a person of strong beliefs and I don't rattle.
First of all, I don't understand why the recreational fire users are so upset. The borough did not ban their use. Bellevue Council has simply asked that they notify the fire department one hour before starting, burn clean wood, and keep it a certain distance from any structures. This would be a great help to the fire department because they wouldn't be called out many times a night responding to non-emergencies ending up being fire pits. Plus, it tends to be very dry here during the summer months and a fire hazard is all too real. Is calling first too much to ask?
Let me also bring up something I doubt any fire pit user has thought of, and that is homeowner's insurance. Insurance companies do not automatically cover you in any recreational fire usages, specifically fire pits. There are potential safety hazards of owning one, and if it does cause damage or loss, you may be financially responsible for part or all of the damage. They are a structural fire hazard and are certainly capable of causing smoke inhalation damage to other people, in which they can bring a lawsuit against you.
A good compromise would be to "go green" by banning wood burning fire pits and allowing natural gas or propane outdoor burning systems which do not emit the hazardous smoke that wood does. Fire pits with these systems burn clean, are easy to control, do not spew smoke and ash into the surrounding air, and are as easy to turn on and off as with a flip of a switch. This solution seems to be a no-brainer in my opinion. Everyone wins! Neighbors can enjoy their smoke-free air while fire pit owners can enjoy the comforting warm glow a fire pit brings.
However, my main issue with the pro-fire pit people, honestly, is their attitude. They seem to have a no-holds barred, uncompromising, aggressive attitude. This is not conducive to any kind of constructive progress. Fire pits are the latest trend, the latest toy, and everyone wants one even if they don't know why. I'm sure in time, people will tire of them and they will sit in their yards unused, but until then there are the health and safety issues. They are not an essential part of living or working, hence the name "recreational fires." With this ordinance, Bellevue Council is just doing its job, placing the safety and health of all citizens in the forefront.
When I read the letter from last week's Citizen from Mr. Thomas Fodi, my initial reaction was that he was highly emotional, overreacting and angry. I respect that Mr. Fodi has an opinion, but there just aren't any real facts to support it. The issue was and remains the safety and health implications of recreational fires, not speculations about Bellevue becoming a socialist state or the taking away of citizen's rights. People just have to call. No one is taking away
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anything, simply put.
Mr. Fodi states many times that Bellevue Council is limiting and controlling the rights of its citizens, businesses and property owners, and that they create ordinances "out of the blue" based on the whims of a "handful of residents." I am a lifelong resident of the boroughs of Avalon and Bellevue and whenever any council makes a decision regarding an ordinance or regulation, it is a long studious process and never is it based on what a handful of citizens want. There are things I have wanted Bellevue Council to do many times regarding property codes, property taxes, garbage clean-up, noise statutes, parking, etc., but it never happened, because not enough people were involved to change anything. There was a highly publicized vote on the liquor issue a year or so ago, and there weren't enough people in favor of the drinking. So obviously the "handful of residents" idea isn't valid. And the constant "new and further restricting ordinances" mentioned by him -- where and when? For me, there are not enough of them, or they are simply not enforced as they should be due to budget cuts, etc. Thomas Fodi asks "Does Bellevue Council truly believe its residents cannot handle our grievances with one another on a personal level?" Not only Bellevue believes that, but I do and most of the world. This isn't Woodstock, we aren't flower children, and it's not 1969. Without rules, laws, ordinances, etc., people tend to get out of hand, order disappears, and trouble ensues. We all need structure, laws and government. We need to all work together to make this borough viable and thriving. Ranting about personal freedom and your right to do what you want when you want it sounds selfish.
My own personal story regarding fire pits involves a user about three blocks away. This person has a huge, dirty burning fire pit with flames four feet high (regulations?), and the smoke drifts that far and comes into our windows at night when we would like a cool breeze to blow in. Our house fills with smoke and we all cough. We have called the fire company about this. When my husband or I have tried talking to other firepit users regarding the smoke, we are met with anger and a flaunting of personal rights. Recently on the social media site Facebook, I was angrily attacked when I expressed my support of the new Bellevue ordinance. The attacks were verbal but vicious, and totally without fact or logic. I can see how we can all work things out peacefully without any government!
As to a "public health awareness campaign" --would all the firepit owners participate? There is an air quality program scheduled on Wednesday, June 13, at the Avalon Borough Building with a lecturer from CCAC at 6:30 pm. Will the firepit owners be there? I sincerely doubt it.
An important quote regarding democracy (by Kenneth Strike and Jonas Soltis, authors of "The Ethics of Teaching") is "Everyone is equally valued and is treated with equal respect and dignity. One test of such a community is how it cares for its weakest and most vulnerable members." We are a republic as a nation, and have a representative form of government in which others speak for us. I implore Bellevue Council to not let the recreational fire users bully everyone into accepting what they want. We who are against the fire use have a voice too. It's not that I or anyone else wants to attack the rights and privileges of any citizen, but it's unsafe given the close proximity of houses in an urban area, and just plain dirty and unhealthy, just like cigarette smoking. And cigarette smoking is pretty much banned everywhere for the same reasons. I remember back in the 1960's when I was a kid, we were allowed to burn garbage and leaves in the boroughs. We also had coal furnaces and used leaded gas in cars. Neville Island frequently showered gray ash on everything, the air smelled like rotten eggs, and cigarettes were a popular thing and not restricted anywhere. Pittsburgh also looked filthy and black all the time and the percentage of cancer, especially lung cancer, was very high. Things have changed thanks in part to the regulation of all of the above. Why are we going backwards and allowing open burning again?
Sources in Minnesota state that firepits account for 30 percent of their metropolitan air pollution. Sources in California state that the products of combustion from firepits contain carcinogens, particulates, benzene, irritants and such similar to cigarette smoke. There are many Web sites reporting asthma attacks, allergic reactions, severe coughing, red itchy tearing eyes, and even skin irritations caused by wood smoke. When these facts are brought up to the firepit users, it is met with unsympathetic, uncaring, profanity-laced aggressive responses. It's really sad. They should care. They should care about everyone's welfare and not their own personal desires.
Debbi Overly

My name is Judi Nelson and I live in Elk Grove, California. Recently, my daughter, my niece and I took a road trip to Piqua, OH and Emsworth, PA in search of my grandfather, Frederick August Wimmers.
The driving force behind the trip was to find a picture of this man who passed away in Emsworth Dec. 9, 1914 when my mother was 7 years old. I know very little about him and have never seen a picture of him.
Fred was born Gottfried August Wimmers on Jan. 21, 1869 in Piqua, OH. Our stop in Piqua netted us some information about him, but sadly, no picture. By 1900, he was living in New Castle City, PA and working as a carpenter. In 1901, he married my grandmother, Mary Anna Schneider, at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Emsworth. By 1903, they were living in Lima, OH where my uncle, Clarence, was born. By 1907, they were back in Emsworth where my mother, Margaret, was born. I know that in 1906-07 they lived at 15 Neville (address has been changed) and by 1910, they were living at 338 Beaver Ave. Fred and Mary Anna are buried at Christ our Redeemer Cemetery.
While we were visiting Emsworth, Cathy Jones in the borough office was such a huge help to us in finding the homes they lived in, the church they attended, the Schneider family farm as well as helping us to find a second cousin that I didn't know I had. We had a perfect time, but alas, no picture there either.
I am writing to you about the possibility of posting an article or advertisement in your paper asking if any of your readers have information, especially a picture, of this man.
Judi Nelson
Elk Grove, CA
[Editor’s note: Anyone with information can e-mail Judi at just-we2@msn.com.]

As I sat and listened to the comments made at the [Bellevue Council] meeting..., I heard many sincere and heartfelt concerns regarding the proposed ordinance... (council) wishes to place in the record books. And after leaving the borough hall, I had a chance to reflect on all of the comments made. I, personally, only had two comments myself. They were... "The proposed ordinance sucks." and the next, which needs a little more explaining.
I am concerned with the use and abuse the Allegheny County "emergency" dispatch center will receive should this ordinance be passed. I, personally, have attempted to contact our "local authorities" over the past two-plus years for situations of a serious nature. As I do my job every day, I see, hear and smell many of things which require immediate attention. And, as what I thought was normal, I would call the "local" numbers I have, to report an auto accident, a pedestrian down, the smell of a gas leak or smoke, just to be told by whomever it is that answers our (Bellevue’s) local number, "If this is an emergency, you need to hang up and dial 911 because we don't have any way of dispatching anyone from here." Let me note, this is not a recording, but instead an actual person who answers, what use to be Bellevue’s "emergency numbers.
My point? What happens if your loved one is having a possible heart attack, or your house is on fire and you try to contact "911", only to be put on hold because I am calling in to report that I am planning a recreational fire to cook a hotdog or s’more? Let us hope and pray your loved one lives through the hold.
A point I forgot to mention at the meeting... was that, what few fires I do have anymore personally are small, quaint, controlled and more importantly, for entertaining out of town guests who love the idea that our little town allows us to do this in the privacy of our own yards.
There are way too many more serious issues to worry about, than who's cookin’ a weenie over an open firepit in this one square mile town.
David Fodi
[Editor’s note: The ordinance specifically states that calls are to be made to the fire department’s non-emergency phone number, not to 911.]

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