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Amended ordinance could soon make recreational fire pits legal again in East Providence

Council gives first passage to revised law on open burning

By Mike Rego
Posted 7/9/20

EAST PROVIDENCE — Theoretically prevented by law for the last several years, the open burning of recreational fires on residential property could once again be allowed in East Providence after …

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Amended ordinance could soon make recreational fire pits legal again in East Providence

Council gives first passage to revised law on open burning

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — Theoretically prevented by law for the last several years, the open burning of recreational fires on residential property could once again be allowed in East Providence after the City Council at its July 7 meeting gave first approval to a law currently on the books.

A follow-up discussion and potential second and final passage of the ordinance is likely to take place at the body’s next meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 4.

Titled, “An ordinance in amendment of chapter 5 of the revised ordinances of the City Of East Providence, Rhode Island, 1998, as amended, entitled ‘Fire Prevention,’ Section 5-2,” the amendments were sponsored by Ward 3 Council Nate Cahoon and Ward 4 Councilor Ricardo Mourato.

Noting it was a “sticky issue” allowing people to  once again legally have an open fire in their backyards, Mr. Cahoon said all of the updates come from existing Rhode Island and national fire codes. He added the revised ordinance mirrors that of neighboring Barrington, but with improvements of “additional limitations and parameters.”

The councilor emphasized the revisions would now allow residential, recreational outdoor fires of so-called “clean” wood in designated fire places or pits. The pits must be commercially made or constructed by a certified professional.

Some of the other requirements include:
The fire must be 30 feet away from any abutting residence.

The diameter of the pit or place must not exceed three feet.

The size of the fire must not exceed two feet in height.

The pit or place must have a “spark arresting” cover or cap.

The wood must be seasoned for six months, cut and dried.

The fires would only be allowed at single family properties or duplexes.

There must be a water source, such as a hose, within range of the fire.

Weather conditions must be amenable. Fires cannot be burned when wind speed is above 15 miles an hour or if a “Code Red” has been issued by the National Weather Service.

Mr. Cahoon read into the record the schedule of sanctions proposed for those who do not abide by the ordinance:

A first offense comes with a written warning.

A second offense within one calendar year has a $100 fine.

A third offense within one calendar year has a $200 fine.

Offenses of four or more within one calendar year comes with up to a $500 for each additional sanction.

Asked by Councilman Mourato if he were “satisfied” with how the ordinance was being presented for first passage, East Providence Fire Chief Glenn Quick responded, “Absolutely. If everyone follows this ordinance to a ’T,’ we wouldn’t have any problems.”

Added Mr. Mourato, “You’re not going to stop people from lighting fires, but hopefully if they look at this they can do it safely by following these guidelines.”

Said Mr. Cahoon, “The idea is that the fire department would have sort of a large swathe of discretion.”

Mr. Cahoon, referring to statistics provided by the Chief Quick and the fire department, said crews respond to approximately 50 complaints per year for open fires.

“I think the fire department would have been perfectly happy for us not to propose this ordinance to begin with. that said they were very quick, no pun intended, to assist with finding a way doing it safely,” said Mr. Cahoon.

The measure did receive some pushback by one resident, who cited health and safety concerns as being nuisances which led to the restrictions having been put into place initially.

Also talked about was the exclusion of multi-family homes from the amendments. Among the reasons given were the close proximity of such dwellings, the need for landlord approval and potential disputes between residents created by the fires.

Near the end of the discussion Chief Quick said of the matter in general, “If someone complains, we will put the fire out. Simple as that.”

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