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Should Bonfires Be Banned Over Health Concerns?

A group known as Take Back the Air has hired an attorney to try to ban outdoor wood burning in Edina.

A local group is fighting to ban outdoor recreational wood fires over what they claim is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Take Back the Air has hired attorney Gale Mellum to petition the City of Edina to ban bonfires. In a letter addressed to the City Council and other Edina officials, Mellum argued wood burning at public events "presents an accessibility issue for children and anyone with breathing issues and other disabilities."

"Just as tobacco smoke is regulated in parks and in public establishments, my clients urge you to enact and enforce a ban against all outdoor recreational burning so that citizens can use their properties and public spaces without the toxic effects of wood smoke," Mellum wrote. "If Edina does not address outdoor wood burning regulation in the near future, individual or collective lawsuits could be brought against the city for not protecting public health, citizens' property rights, and everyone's right to access public spaces."

In addition to alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the letter claims the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act could also be "used to require Edina to improve the air quality within the city."

Organizer Julie Mellum, who suffers from severe asthma, claims she became sick from wood smoke and was forced to stop walking around Edinborough Park due to smoke from wood fires at nearby restaurants.

Mellum told local TV news outlet KSTP residents have "a guaranteed basic civil right to breath clean air on our own properties, but also at public spaces."

"Wood smokes does prevent an actual physical barrier," she said. "Cities are supposed to remove barriers so that people can enjoy the parks and public spaces like streets and sidewalks."

Take Back the Air wants the city to not only ban outdoor bonfires, but also to change the wood-burning fireplace at Centennial Lakes Park's Centrum Building over to gas-burning.

City Manager Scott Neal said no plans are in place to switch that fireplace over or to existing city ordinances regarding outdoor bonfires.

"Human beings gathering around a campfire is a long tradition in this state and in the country," Neal told KSTP.

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Katherine Troidl October 12, 2012 at 04:47 AM
No, it's actually not an example of the inconvenience of a few affecting the many. It's a health issue. Read what you wrote: you'd bet that 100's of Edina residents are having backyard fires. You just unwittingly defined the problem. Can you not see that? Please educate yourself about the health effects of wood smoke. Chronic exposure to it has a way of creeping up on you. As far as Ms. Mellum looking beyond her "wants", you have it backwards. Breathing is a need. Humans are obligate aerobes. Burning a backyard fire in this day and age is a "want." That may change some day, but for right now, it's not a need, it's a "want." Breathing is a need.
Katherine Troidl October 12, 2012 at 04:51 AM
Smoke inhalation reminds you of no more birthday treats? Seriously? Breathing is frivolous? There's nothing better than sitting around a bonfire with friends? Whatever floats your boat, but go camping and have your bonfire there, and stop wasting peoples' time who value their lungs. And by the way, God gave you your lungs, you can't go buy new ones, so you might want to rethink that sitting around the fire if it's something you do a lot.
Katherine Troidl October 12, 2012 at 04:55 AM
I don't feel that global warming is the issue. I think the issue is that you don't have a right to send people to the emergency room with smoke inhalation. Just so selfish to put your gratification above someones' breathing. People who burned wood throughout the ages to survive were not doing anything wrong. But there's a time and a place for everything, and if you live in a residential area and are just burning a fire for jollies, and your neighbors' breathing is being affected by it, God Almighty. Grow a conscience.
Katherine Troidl October 12, 2012 at 04:56 AM
that's a good idea, Kent!
Katherine Troidl October 12, 2012 at 04:59 AM
Bob, if you idled a diesel engine in your backyard for hours on end, it would be a good comparison. I think your rights end where her lungs begin, if your smoke is getting on her property and in her house, or if it's permeating a public sidewalk, etc. This is why people used to go on camping trips. You have the right to walk down the street flailing your arms however you choose, but that right stops when it hits my nose. Same idea.

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