BREWER, Maine — Residents, including a former Fire Department lieutenant, and City Council members voiced concerns Tuesday night about a proposed amendment that would prevent people from having small fires in outdoor grills or fireplaces except when they were cooking food.
“There is absolutely no reason to outlaw” backyard fires in established fire pits, Councilor Michael Celli said, adding he has four or five gatherings with small fires at his home annually. “We’re talking about a pit the size of a campfire. It’s ridiculous to prohibit that.”
“I have fires at my house all the time. They’re social events,” said resident Bruce Fernald, who makes and sells fire pits made from recycled materials. “We have iced tea and s’mores. I’m opposed to this.”
Councilors Joseph Ferris and Larry Doughty joined Celli in opposing the amendment to the fire prevention ordinance, and Mayor Manley DeBeck said the wording of the proposed changes needs work.
“The intent is to prohibit backyard bonfires,” Councilor Archie Verow said.
Terry Morancie, who is a former fire lieutenant with a fire pit in his backyard, simply said, “Leave us alone.”
Councilors voted 3-2, with Ferris and Celli voting in opposition, to post the amendment, which means the panel will readdress the topic at its October meeting.
In addition to the proposed backyard fire pit rules, the amendment would add a new 100-foot setback for all open burns that require permits, would add “creating public alarm” as another reason for permits to be revoked, and would define a nuisance as “preventing the enjoyment of one’s property.”
Problems with the open-burning rules were brought before the council in May when Richard Tozier, who lives on Brimmer Street, complained that his neighbor was burning illegal items in a fire pit and that the smoke was a nuisance. At that time, councilors said they would review the ordinance.
During the meeting, councilors also:
- Banned parking on both sides of Parkway South between Wilson Street and Robertson Boulevard.
- Heard a presentation from a University of Maine School of Economics representative about a pilot program to educate residents about resources available to them to help with high home heating prices.
- Directed that a time vault, filled with newspaper articles, patches and other personal items of the day, be placed in the ground at the new public safety building, to be opened in 50 years.