The Scottsboro City Council discussed burn ordinances again at its dual session Monday evening. The council examined the issue at its April 6 meeting.
At that meeting, Scottsboro Fire Chief Gene Necklaus was asked to do some research on burn ordinances and look into the ordinances other cities have in place.
Necklaus emailed council members 15 or 16 ordinances, and a sample of what he would suggest for a baseline of an ordinance. He said that he wanted to allow provisions for people to have cooking fires, camp fires and leaf burning fires and cleanup burns within reason.
He did want to add provisions for large fires, where people are land clearing next to someone’s house, which is causing issues for citizens.
Necklaus said another citizen called Monday morning with the same issue, which is smoke, ash, ember, etc. intruding onto someone’s property.
The samples follow the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and International Fire Code requirements.
He said 10 of the 15 samples had specifically spelled out some degree of enforcement and penalty.
“I think without any sort of enforcement or penalty; it would be just like have a speed suggestion sign instead of a speed limit sign,” said Necklaus.
Councilman Mike Ashburn asked how many times Necklaus had seen something that needed enforcement. Necklaus said it was probably over a dozen. He said; however, enforcement is not the goal or the endgame.
Necklaus said the fire department is going to tighten up their internal administrative guidelines about burning to match both ADEM and the fire code they fall under. He said that may or may not curb some of the issue.
In the April 6 meeting, Council President Patrick Stewart said he had gotten a complaint about a large burn where someone was cleaning up a lot, and it had been burning for a few days. Scottsboro Fire Chief Gene Necklaus said things like this happen regularly. He said it mostly happens when people are building houses and they are cleaning up their lot.
Necklaus said there is a city ordinance that says people cannot burn until the fire department issues a permit. The permit can be written or orally issued to the citizen. Necklaus said the fire department follows the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) regulations when they issue permits. He said clearing land for construction is allowed under ADEM regulations.
Necklaus said they issue permits so that the fire department is aware of who is burning, where they are burning and what they are burning. They ask people a series of question, and they go through the process of explaining ADEM regulations to the person wanting a burn permit.
He said the receive anywhere from six to ten calls on busy days. He said right now, a great deal of people are doing yard work and burning things. He said they are all busy days right now, and they are issuing permits for small burns and large burns.
Necklaus said the current ordinance does not have many “teeth.” He said that he is willing to have discussion about a stricter local ordinance. He said the he understands both sides to these issues, and that a situation like this puts the fire department in a bad spot. He said this issue will come up again, and it comes up several times every year.