Recreational Fires Must Be Eliminated

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The air is smoky from burning wood in North St. Paul, MN, almost every evening. It is a nightmare. What used to be a nice place to live has become a living hell.

WARNING: If you buy a house in North St. Paul, MN, you will regret it! It may be the biggest, most expensive mistake you ever make. You will breathe smoky air almost every day of your life in this town. This is not an exaggeration. The wood smoke in this town gets heavy and gets heavy often. When you want to get out of this dump of a town, how many people do you think are going to want to buy a house in a city where heavy air pollution every night is normal and clean air is rare? This blog gets thousands of visitors every year. The word is out: North St. Paul is a horrible place to live!

Fresh air is very rare around here. If you are considering moving to North St. Paul or buying a home here, I strongly recommend that you do not do it no matter how good of a price you get. The only way you will be happy in this town is if you love breathing smoky air almost every day. North St. Paul, MN, is a horrible place to live because of the smoky air!

Burning wood, grass, leaves, paper, cardboard, and sometimes plastic, construction materials, and chemicals, if it is combustible it gets burned in North St. Paul and you are going to breathe it.

The air was smoky 25 out of 31 evenings in July 2009. We had 37 hours of continuous wood smoke in the air Aug. 29th - 31st. There was wood smoke in the air 19 consecutive evenings from Aug. 21st to Sept. 8th. It rained heavily on Aug. 20th, providing the only relief we got from wood smoke for almost three weeks.

Is this a good way to live? No. It is a horrible way to live. Take it from someone who knows. Breathing smoky, polluted air every day is misery.

Every day in this city several people are having recreational fires. Every evening the air is filled with the stench of burning wood. I am one person sick and tired of breathing smoky air every day. Is it too much to ask to be able to breathe fresh air in your own home?

Who is responsible for this wood smoke nightmare? The four city council members are responsible. Council members Jan Walczak, Bob Bruton, Terry Furlong, and Dave Zick have refused to do anything about this wood smoke problem. They don't care if you have a child with asthma. They don't care if you have to live like a shut-in because the air is so polluted. They don't care if your sinuses burn because the wood smoke is so heavy.

Our four Council members have defended the rights of a small percentage of households to burn wood daily over the rights of all the rest of us to breathe.

You have no right to breathe under Walczak, Bruton, Furlong, and Zick. Burners have the right to burn wood 49 hours a week recreationally. The rest of us have no rights at all.

If you are considering purchasing real estate in the city of North Saint Paul, Minnesota (55109), factor this blog carefully into your decision. Buying a home in this city means that your kids will breathe smoky air while playing in the yard almost every day. Your baby will breathe smoky air in her crib should you leave the windows open around your house. If you leave your windows open you will wake up in the middle of the night choking on smoky air.

Perhaps worst of all, your utility rates will be high because you will have to run the air conditioner instead of leaving the windows open on a cool summer evening. You have no other choice because almost every night the air is too smoky to breathe in this city. Consider this blog your warning.

North St. Paul, Minnesota, is a wonderful community other than the wood smoke. If we could restore fresh air like we used to enjoy, life would be happy again. But that is not going to happen any time soon.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Action in Maplewood and hopefully other communities

I got a few more emails since last I checked my inbox ( They have all been from supporters. One person asked me why I haven't updated my blog recently. The reason is because it is winter now and it is expected that the air will be smoky.

Every house in the city just about is connected to natural gas lines. It was forecast that natural gas prices would be up significantly this winter, but that never happened as a result of falling energy prices. I was hoping that burning of wood wouldn't be the primary source of home heating for people. Sadly, it seems to be.

For the most part the air in my section of North St. Paul is smoky 24 hours a day. It is smoky in the morning, smoky in the evening, smoky on weekend days, and even mildly smoky right now at 1 AM. Being that it is winter, the windows are all closed. The only time you experience smoky air is when you are outside going to your vehicle or getting some exercise.

Even in the winter I would prefer to breathe clean, fresh air than smoky air. But it's wintertime, so what can you do? People don't want to pay for natural gas, so they pollute the air instead.

I did a little search for my blog URL and found that someone mentioned it on the Star Tribune website in the comments section for an article. I discovered that it was an article about wood smoke.

That's the problem with recreational burning: you cannot escape the smoky air--not in your home, not in your yard, no where. If you have your windows open, your home fills with smoke. I have experienced this. The smoke odor lingers in the carpeting and draperies for days. If you want to sit outside and enjoy the evening or play in the yard with your kids, you are forced to breathe smoky air. Do you think little children want to breathe smoky air? Does anyone?

The people who burn are the ones who are least likely to suffer from their actions. If you have a recreational fire, you sit upwind from it so the smoke doesn't blow in your face. Right? But that smoke does blow away. It blows downwind and right into the faces of everyone who isn't burning. It blows into their homes and into their lungs. The person burning doesn't get his house filled with smoke. He doesn't have smoky air in his face. But the majority of people who are not burning do.

Is that fair? Is it fair for hundreds, if not thousands, of people who are not burning to be forced to breathe smoky air because the city governments want to protect the ability of the minority to burn?

On my block in North St. Paul which includes the houses on my side of the street, across the street, and directly behind me, there are about 45 homes total. Of those 45 homes, I noticed recreational fires at only five of them this past summer. That's a total of 11% of homes that burn wood during the spring and summer on my block, 89% of homes don't burn. Of those five homes that burn, one burns almost every day (wood and yard waste), two more burn 3 - 4 times per week, the family down the street burns about once per week, and the family across the street burned about five times all last summer.

Why should people who live in the 89% of homes that don't burn--many elderly--have to breathe smoky air because of the small minority of 11% of homes that do burn? Does anyone prefer smoky air over fresh, clean air? How can anyone argue that people would prefer to breathe smoky air over clean air?

Do you think an 80-year-old man wants to breathe smoky air every day? Do you think that elderly man wants to have to run around his house closing windows so his house doesn't reek of wood smoke? How can anyone argue that he would?

How can any politician defend protecting the ability of the small minority of burners to continue frivolous, unnecessary, air pollution causing burning over the right of the majority to breathe fresh air?

Everyone must breathe the air; nobody needs to burn wood for recreational purposes. Very few people are going to prefer breathing smoky air over breathing clean, fresh air.

I saw a letter to the editor recently in the Pioneer Press from a person complaining about the city of Maplewood's task force studying the problem of wood smoke. It looks like the city council members in Maplewood are listening to their residents, unlike Jan Walczak and the others here in North St. Paul.

On the morning of July 4th of this year I went for a bike ride from my home in North St. Paul to Lake Phalen in St. Paul. From White Bear Ave. and County Road C all the way to Phalen the air was smoky in the city of Maplewood--at 6 AM! Even when I was crossing the trail bridge at Highway 36 the air smelled like wood smoke. I had to breathe smoky air for most of the duration of my bike ride. That's how smoky it was in Maplewood that morning. So it looks like the residents of Maplewood and other cities are going through what we are going through here in North St. Paul.

I wish you Maplewood residents the best of luck with your wood smoke problem. Even though I don't live in your city, I travel through Maplewood almost every day since Maplewood envelopes North St. Paul on three sides. I also enjoy walks in the evening which take me through the northern part of Maplewood. Even though I'm not a resident, I still breathe that wood smoke.

I am going to send emails to your city council members and give them my two cents and my encouragement. If we here in North St. Paul can't breathe fresh air, I hope you people in Maplewood can. I wish you Maplewood residents the best of luck.

I only hope that one day we all can breathe fresh, clean air and not air filled with the putrid stench of burning wood.