By BILL SHEA
Fort Dodge residents will be allowed to burn grass and leaves for nine days later this spring.
The City Council voted 5-2 on Monday to temporarily lift the ban on such open burning and allow it to take place from May 31 to June 8. The burning of garbage will remain illegal.
Council members Kim Alstott, Dave Flattery, Dean Hill, Terry Moehnke and Don Wilson voted yes. Councilmen Andy Fritz and Jeffrey Halter voted no.
Open burning, except for recreational fires in fireplaces and fire pits, was banned under a 2010 city law. However, the council has usually voted to lift that ban for a few days in the spring and fall.
''I actually believe taking two weeks out of the year is something we can do,'' Alstott said.
However, last fall the council rejected a plan to lift the burning ban for about a week.
Fire Chief Kent Hulett said that last year his department responded to 88 open burning complaints.
He said when firefighters asked people why they were burning they usually received one of two answers. Some people, he said, claimed they didn't know there was a burning ban while others said the city government allows them to burn in the spring and fall.
Hulett said he's witnessed careless behavior, such as burning on windy days or leaving fires unattended. He said at least one structure fire in Fort Dodge was caused by flames from open burning spreading to a garage.
The chief said smoke from open burning poses a health hazard because 85 percent of the particles in that smoke are inhaled deep into the lungs.
Mike Devine, of 910 Second Ave. N., asked the council to consider lifting the ban on open burning during its April 21 meeting. On Monday, he denounced the burning ban.
''This is simply government bullying,'' he said. ''It's telling people you're not smart enough to simply burn leaves.''