HAMMOND — The City Council adopted an ordinance Monday requiring residents who want to burn leaves, woody debris or trash to get a permit to do so and to conduct the burn in an underground incinerator.
The matter may not sit well with some folks.
Resident Louise Bostic told the council she feared the new regulations will be a hindrance to people trying to clear overgrown lots, especially in the city’s older neighborhoods. She said she worked all summer to clear a lot she owns and she burned some of the debris in an above-ground incinerator.
But Fire Chief John Thomas said such open burning was never allowed in the city.
The issue was raised at an earlier meeting when Councilman Lemar Marshall, who proposed the revised ordinance, said some of his constituents were confused about rules regulating the setting of open fires in the city. Marshall said there was a misconception that permits could be obtained for open burning of materials for a fee from the Fire Department. Such a fee system never existed, Marshall said, and creating open fires in the city was never allowed.
The new ordinance prohibits all burning except in an underground incinerator that prohibits the escape of smoke and burning embers. The law, however, does allow for fires at special events, and for these fires a permit can be obtained from the fire chief at no cost.
Thomas pointed out that celebratory bonfires, such as one held every year at Southeastern Louisiana University’s homecoming, could be permitted. Safety measures in such cases must be followed, he said.
The chief said state laws also must be considered: the law requires that any open burning be at least 1,000 feet from an occupied dwelling or buildings. “There’s almost nowhere in this city where you can be 1,000 feet from a structure,” Thomas said. He added that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules also regulate the release of smoke that can be a health hazard to nearby residents.
Thomas said that “recreational fires” are allowed in the city. These include outdoor cooking on barbecue pits, outdoor fire places and chimney-style warming devices.
The new ordinance carries a fine of not more than $100 for a first offense, not more than $250 for a second offense, and not more than $500 for a third and any succeeding offenses.