City considers amending outdoor burning code

Ray Scherer


The Hermann Board of Aldermen is reviewing potential changes to a city code that governs the practice of outdoor fires in the community.


At a regular Oct. 12 meeting, the BOA discussed a draft ordinance that would add a new section of regulations regarding outdoor fireplaces. The proposal, which has yet to receive a vote, says that the city recognizes that some residents like to burn recreational fires in outdoor fireplaces, yet with certain restrictions to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of all citizens.


"The city encourages all persons using outdoor fireplaces/fire pits to have consideration for neighbors and to use common sense prior to kindling any outdoor fire," the draft reads.


The proposal outlines various definitions for outdoor fireplaces and fire pits, both of the permanent and portable variety. Rubbish (trash) that could be burned is also explained.


Under general regulations, the use of such fires would be prohibited when weather or other local circumstances make them hazardous. It would be up to the mayor, fire department, state fire marshal, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, or other state or federal agencies to make such a declaration. The lot size where fires can be lit is included in the language, as is supervision tending to the fires. All fires would have to be out by midnight, and no fire may be ignited between midnight and 8 a.m.


No type of rubbish could be burned that would be considered as a pollutant, noxious, foul-smelling, or dangerous to human health.


 Leaf-burning season would be confined to the period from the last three weeks of both May and October, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and no closer than 50 feet from any structure. Leaves and yard waste could not be burned in a street or gutter, but could be burned in fire pits and outdoor fireplaces. Fires could not be started or allowed to remain kindled if sustained winds exceed 15 miles per hour. Fires would have to be immediately extinguished if sustained winds increase to 15 miles mph or greater.


A fire extinguisher or other type of extinguisher would need to be readily available and within sight of the fire. Police would have the authority to order an immediate extinguishing of fires that are deemed hazardous or not maintained in line with city regulations.


During the initial discussion, Ward Two Alderman David Faerber said he disagreed with some of the language on leaf-burning season, stating that leaves still fall in December and that extending the time period wouldn't inflict harm on anyone. He said the section would unfairly penalize people.


"I'm not gonna tell them they can't do it," Faerber said, referring to residents wanting to burn leaves later in the season.


Ward One Alderman Susan Lenger said the changes are meant to protect residents' health.


Mayor Bruce Cox said the amendment shouldn't penalize everyone in Hermann for the actions of a few people who transgress the law with improper burning. He said some of the fires in the city are intended for recreational purposes late at night, and said he opposes "95 percent" of the proposal. He also said residents shouldn't be burning trash.


Faerber also asked that a larger signage should be added to help advertise the availability of Hermann's compost site, where leaves can be taken.


Ward Two Alderman Jim Schirmer recalled one incident in the past of negligence at a fire, resulting in a call to the fire department. Police Chief Marlon Walker said most people do notify the city ahead of their plans to use fire pits.


City Attorney David Politte will research which portions of the International Fire Code could have relevance to the proposal and report back to the board in November.