On Monday, the Fort Dodge City Council voted 5-2 to temporarily lift the city's ban on open burning. From May 31 to June 8, Fort Dodge residents will be allowed to burn grass and leaves without the use of a fireplace or a fire pit.
Let freedom ring.
While some people apparently believe bans on open burning are but another pit stop on the road to totalitarian dictatorship, we question the wisdom of lifting, however briefly, the provisions of the city's 2010 law.
Indeed, during the meeting Fort Dodge Fire Chief Kent Hulett laid out numerous well-founded reasons as to why the law makes sense.
Last fall, the council rejected a similar plan to lift the burning ban.
Despite the total prohibition, Hulett said his department has responded to 88 open burning complaints in the past year.
He told the council that, 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.
More alarmingly, 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 - again, despite the burning ban in effect.
Lifting the ban will result in more open burning, which is all too likely to result in more unfavorable outcomes. At very least, arbitrary suspensions of the law foster confusion among city residents.
It is unfortunate that the council - with the exception of Councilmen Jeffrey Halter and Andy Fritz - chose to disregard these facts in the face of histrionic commentary. We urge city residents who choose to burn their grass and leaves openly to exercise extreme caution.