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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Monday, August 24, 2009

Email from a prospective home buyer

I got an email from someone saying they are interested in buying a home in North St. Paul. As is my policy, I don't reveal identifying information about people who contact me unless they are public officials. The emailer writes:

I read you blog with interest. I am looking to possibly buy a home in North St Paul and had no idea about the wood fires smoke issue. Has the city looked into addressing this in anyway? Is it all from back yard fire pits or is this also brush burning?

I was searching on line for crime reports to get a better feel for the neighbor hoods – any resources for this you know about?


If you purchase a home in this smoky city, it could be the biggest mistake you ever make in your life. Don't even consider it. You will regret it!

This city is a very nice place to live except for the daily wood smoke which is usually so bad you have to close up all your windows. Most people look at houses during the daytime, so they will have no idea what the air pollution is like in the evenings. As you can see from this blog, the wood smoke in this town is terrible. North St. Paul is a nightmare and has been for years.

Most of the air pollution in this town is the result of recreational wood burning in the evenings. There are some who burn brush, grass clippings, and soon will be burning leaves. But there are less of these people than there are wood burners. Yard waste burns quickly. Logs burn slowly. There are a handful of yard waste burners within a quarter mile radius of us. I've smelled burning grass at 7 AM earlier this summer and smelled it several times in the late morning or early afternoon as well, usually on the weekends when I'm around. Truth be told, I prefer yard waste burning to wood burning. I don't like either.

I have been complaining to the city since 2008 about the wood smoke problem. The problem has been growing worse every year. Wood smoke became an issue a few years ago, possibly back in 2003. Ten years ago, nobody burned wood. You never had to close your windows. You never had to worry about someone starting a bonfire late at night. Wood smoke is a daily event now. The Mayor, Mike Kuehn, feels strongly about the wood smoke problem. He is the only elected official in this town who has demonstrated a willingness to help. Unfortunately, he cannot do anything about this problem without action from the city council. All four of the city council members have refused to address this issue.

The root of the wood smoke problem is the city's recreational burning ordinance which allows the burning of wood all seven days a week between 4 PM - 11 PM. If the city allows burning everyday, somebody somewhere is going to be burning. If it isn't raining, I never have trouble finding wood smoke when I go looking for it. I usually don't have to look for it because I can smell the wood smoke in our yard. Wood smoke does not stay confined to the property of the burner. It travels wherever the wind blows it. I have tracked wood smoke a half-mile to its source. So somebody burning a half-mile from you on a Sunday evening can smoke up the air where you are if the wind is right.

There seems to be three or four burners on every block, which is a small percentage of households. I estimate that about 15% of the households are burners north of Highway 36, which is where we live. Most households never burn. There are a few frequent burners who burn several times a week and there are those who burn a few times a month or a few times a summer. But with hundreds of homes in a residential area about a mile square, you will always find someone burning every night of the week.

People often burn after the allowed time of 11 PM. Then you get people who don't extinguish their fires and leave them smoldering all night long. This happens all the time. Several times this summer the air has been horribly smoky at 3AM or 4 AM. If you have a burner within a block or two of you, you can often smell the odor of burnt wood on the breeze in the morning. Do you want to smell burnt wood at 7 AM? If you want to live in North St. Paul, you better answer "yes" to that question.

I contacted city council member Jan Walczak in late May of 2008 about the wood smoke problem. Her response was patronizing, reminding me of the hours allotted for recreational burning, as if I didn't already know the city allowed burning 49 hours a week. She refused to help.

I contacted Mayor Kuehn and city council members Bob Bruton, Terry Furlong, and Dave Zick in late May 2009 about the wood smoke problem. Mayor Kuehn was sympathetic and understood the scope of the problem. All three of the city council members were of no help. Bruton stated his support for recreational burning. Council members Furlong and Zick ignored me completely.

We have suffered tremendously because of this wood smoke problem. It is not isolated to my neighborhood. It is a city-wide problem that is not going away on its own.

Living in North St. Paul, MN, is like living in hell.

As for crime, there is crime in every city. There isn't much here. North St. Paul has a large population of seniors, many of whom have lived in the city for decades. If you are friendly to them, they will look out for you. If you stay away from the areas with apartments, duplexes, and lower income areas such as the areas around 11th & McKnight and 7th & McKnight, crime will not be something you will have to be concerned about. If you want further information about crime in North St. Paul, you could try contacting the Police Chief to see if he can be of assistance to you.

If you enjoy breathing smoky air everyday and want to breathe smoky air as you lie in bed every night, North St. Paul is the perfect place for you. If you don't want to breathe smoky air everyday, you are best to buy a home elsewhere. You have to love wood smoke to live in this town or you will be very unhappy.

If the city ever eliminates this wood smoke problem, which does not seem likely to happen anytime soon, I would recommend living here highly. Until then, steer clear of this town.