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Minneapolis to consider limits on recreational fires

One proposal would ban them on air alert days, designated by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Recreational fires may be disappearing from Minneapolis yards on air alert days.

Recreational fires could be banned in Minneapolis on air alert days, designated by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency when the air quality is deemed unhealthy for sensitive groups.

Council Member Cam Gordon
Council Member Cam Gordon

“I think a good case can be made that burning wood contributes to air pollution and air quality,” said Council Member Cam Gordon, who is asking his colleagues to have a “bit of conversation” about recreational fires and air quality.

“I hear concerns from people about how recreational fires make it harder for them to breathe,” said Gordon.

Two of the City Council’s advisory committees, Public Health and Environment, have also voiced concerns about the negative impact of recreational fires on air alert days.

Recreation fires are currently banned in Minneapolis when a statewide or area ban on burning is declared by the Department of Natural Resources because of dry conditions.

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The rules for recreational fires in Minneapolis require that they not be within 25 feet of a structure or other combustible material and that they be surrounded by a 6-inch non-combustible barrier. They also specify that someone must monitor the fires as long as they burn. The fires must be extinguished by 10 p.m. Only untreated and unpainted wood may be used for fuel.

According to the website for Take Back the Air, a Minneapolis-based organization working to ban wood smoke, lawn chemicals and scented products, “there is no safe level of wood smoke.”

“Wood smoke can trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks and premature death,” according to the web page, which says wood smoke is a major source of black carbon soot.

Fires for cooking or religious ceremonies would not be affected by the ban on air alert days.

“Back when I was a kid, we were allowed — and actually had — to burn garbage at our homes,” said Gordon. “In the fall, everyone would burn leaves in the street. That was a way to get rid of waste.”

Gordon has introduced the restriction on recreational fires and expects that it will be heard sometime in February in the Public Safety, Civil Rights and Health Committee.