Local open burning ordinance may not be legal, says Chief

Fire Chief Patrick Egloff. (File photo)

WESTFIELD- The Fire Commission and Fire Chief Patrick Egloff clarified discrepancies in the local and state open burning laws Nov. 4.

The Commission discussed the matter because a concerned citizen, Bradford B. Moir, had requested the discussion after witnessing open burning in his neighborhood which he is not sure to be legal. 

Moir, who lives on Western Avenue in the vicinity of Stanley Park, said that multiple neighbors of his had been open burning recently. He said he saw that they had been burning construction material and not doing so for the purposes of cooking food, which changes how the law is handled.

He said he had made a complaint a couple of years ago, but that the situation was not resolved in the way he had hoped.

“They told the people to just get some hotdogs out and look like they’re cooking,” said Moir.

He noted that the smoke from the fires sometimes finds its way into their house, especially during the summer when there are fans in the window. 

In the city’s ordinance codes, open burning law falls under chapter 7, article 1, section 7-1f, ordinance 1683. In that ordinance, it states that open burning cannot take place less than 20 feet from any structure. 

Egloff said that he was personally involved in the creation of the ordinance, and that he had spoken up against it when it was being proposed.

“I do not believe that people in the downtown area of Westfield should be able to burn,” said Egloff.

He went on to say that the state’s open burning policies require that one sets up their burn pit or device at least 75 feet from any structure. He noted that the City Council at one point chose to decrease the local minimum distance to 20 feet, which he believes could cause more fires. 

“I can tell you that, as of right now from what I understand in talking to the Massachusetts [Department of Environmental Protection] is that this ordinance is not even legal,” said Egloff, “The DEP has not blessed it.”

Egloff then said that his authority to enforce the law with the Fire Department is limited, as he can only fine somebody $100 for their first offense. Egloff and members of the Fire Commission both said that the best way for the average person to combat unwanted open burning when it happens is to call dispatch, not 911 or the fire department office, so that the line can be recorded and they can make a complaint. 

Egloff then noted that they are paying attention to certain areas of the city where they think open burning is happening more.

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