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Fire pits soon could be regulated in Whitehall

| Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, 2:28 p.m.

Whitehall residents who spend their evenings relaxing by an outdoor fire pit soon could have rules to follow.

An ordinance placing restrictions on outdoor fire pits and open burning likely will be in place by April, Councilman Bill Veith said last week. The ordinance will limit the size of fire pits, how long they burn, and the distance a fire pit can be located from a structure.

“We're not outlawing it by any means. We're just trying to have something in place to regulate it. Common sense in some cases,” Veith said. “For the person sitting in the back yard, enjoying it with their family, nothing's going to change.”

Resident complaints prompted leaders to look at putting restrictions on open burning. Typically, Whitehall officials receive 20 to 30 calls each summer from residents who are upset about their neighbor's fire pit habits, borough Manager James Leventry said.

The complaints usually are about the smoke that pours from a nearby fire pit into homes, Leventry said.

“A lot of it is common sense — courtesy toward your neighbors,” Veith said. “We don't want people burning trash. If you're burning the right thing, it's not going to be causing a problem.”

Whitehall does not have any regulations to monitor outdoor burning, Leventry said.

Members of council's public safety committee, the town's police and fire chiefs, borough manager and mayor met last week to discuss their plans. The public safety committee has been reviewing options since June.

Borough solicitor Irving Firman is drafting an ordinance that could be available for council's review by their Feb. 20 meeting, Leventry said.

Violations could result in a fee that would not exceed $600, if convicted in court, Leventry said.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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