Fire pit ordinance stands in Warren

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published May 10, 2021

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WARREN — An ordinance permitting the “reasonable” outdoor burning of dry, seasoned wood in approved containers on residential properties that pitted Warren Mayor Jim Fouts against a united City Council will stand as approved in April.

On April 27, council members voted unanimously to override a veto by Fouts of action they took earlier in the month to approve the ordinance. The vote was 6-0 with Councilman Eddie Kabacinski absent from the meeting. The 7-0 approval vote was also unanimous.

Fouts cited a list of concerns as reasons for the veto, including irritation for residents suffering from asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory or heart ailments. He said enforcement of the ordinance would end up “pitting neighbor against neighbor,” and that was bad for the environment.

Council Secretary Mindy Moore, however, said again that the ordinance was crafted in consultation with the International Fire Code, and with the support of the Warren Fire Department.

“The fire pit ordinance does allow the Fire Department to extinguish a fire if it’s causing a nuisance to the neighbors,” Moore said.

Councilman Garry Watts voted for the ordinance last month because he said it was clear it was what a majority of Warren residents wanted, even though he had opposed the idea in the past. He said he’d like to see a permit required to ensure a backyard fire pit meets the conditions specified in the ordinance.

As it stands, containers are required to be store-bought or constructed to include a lid and sides that keep any wood enclosed. Again, only the burning of dry and seasoned firewood is permitted under the ordinance. The burning of garbage or building materials is prohibited.  

Councilwoman Angela Rogensues she’d received calls and messages from residents about the mayor’s veto and that while she would vote to override it, she encouraged residents to contact her with any issues. She also said she’d support further modifications to the ordinance based on feedback received by council members.

“I’ve stated previously I don’t agree with the ordinance allowing fires until 1 a.m. I think that’s excessive. However, I am supportive of this overall ordinance,” Rogensues said.

Councilman Jonathan Lafferty said the mayor’s statements about the ordinance contributing to increased “greenhouse gases” and “climate change” were nothing more than “scare tactics.”

In a Facebook post on April 26, Fouts also said fire pits were “tolerated as long as there were no major problems,” even before the new ordinance governing them was passed. Lafferty took exception to that statement.

“Mr. Mayor, lawlessness is not an excuse, and the council is righting that wrong tonight,” Lafferty said.