That wasn’t so hard. Brookfield trustees voted 5 to 0 (Trustee David LeClere was absent) to allow fire pits — and barbecue grills — on Monday night, capping a two-month process that got started when a resident came to board bewildered about being told he had to extinguish his fire pit back in April.
What the village board discovered was that its law regarding open burning was so restrictive, it not only outlawed fire pits but also grills or anything short of an EPA-approved outdoor fireplace.
The law passed on Monday conforms to the International Fire Code the board passed back in December and it also loosens restrictions on fire pits (and, of course, on grills).
It won’t please everyone and it won’t solve every problem related to fire pits.
There will always be people who don’t know when to quit and for whom the 11 p.m. cutoff time for fire pits will be viewed as a suggestion and not as a rule. There will continue to be folks who want to burn their used cardboard (and worse) in their fire pits. There will continue to be people who believe that the world outside their property lines does not exist and that no one can tell them what to do on their property.
The new law also doesn’t solve the problem of police having to be called in to referee neighbor disputes about whether a fire pit is a nuisance or a health hazard. Police Chief Steven Stelter said on Monday that unless there’s an imminent danger, like high winds making threat of a fire more likely or an abundance of smoke, that it’d be tough to shut down a fire pit based on a complaint.
However, we’d like Stelter to perhaps come up with strategies for his officers to try to navigate situations that will no doubt arise now that these devices are legal. While it’s nice to contend that neighbors should be able to talk to one another and come to an agreeable solution, sometimes neighbors really don’t like one another and talking to one another is more likely to lead to an escalation of tension rather than a friendly understanding.
It’d be nice to think that police or maybe even fire officials might be able to step in and assess a situation in which a resident can legitimately claim that a neighbor’s fire pit habit is having a serious impact on their health. While in the vast majority of cases fire pits won’t be any problem, it’s something the village shouldn’t discount.
The long and short of the new law is that it appears to be reasonable. And if it turns out that fire pits are actually a bigger problem than first believed, it’s a law that can be amended or repealed.
But the fact is that fire pits have been a fact of life in Brookfield for many years. Here’s to hoping people enjoy their newfound freedom to use fire pits responsibly — maybe even thinking of their neighbors first, before clicking the trigger on the Aim ‘n Flame.