Open burn ban back on Phoenix agenda

PHOENIX — The City Council will take yet another crack at a ban on open outdoor burning Monday.

First considered last year, the proposed ban was revived by the council in early 2008, then again at the urging of Department of Environmental Quality officials in recent months out of concerns for air quality in the Rogue Valley.

The city is one of just a handful without a ban on outdoor burning.

City Manager Jane Turner said the council had held "at least one" workshop during which the matter had been discussed and that various options had been considered, including partial bans and allowing burning with permits for specific purposes.

The newest rendition of the ordinance could include language, if council members approve, to allow certain agricultural and other vegetative burning with permits, Turner said, but would otherwise ban outdoor burning of trash and other debris.

"In a nutshell, open burning of agricultural or other vegetative waste necessary for disease or pest control may be allowed with a written permit by the fire department," Turner said.

"But I guess we'll have to see what transpires Monday night."

If approved, a full ban would do away with leaf burning, trash burn barrels and other types of residential burning.

The topic has largely divided the council, which is trying to balance the burning rights of property owners against the health of residents with breathing difficulties.

Dan Marshall, chief of Jackson County Fire District No. 5, said district officials preferred either a "burn or no burn" approach. Marshall said a compromise would be more difficult for his agency to administer and could prove confusing for residents.

Mayor Carlos DeBritto said, while the council had "thoroughly and completely" reviewed all possible options concerning a burn ban, it was a difficult issue to decide.

"Technically, it's supposed to be the second reading Monday, and hopefully we should finally get it resolved," DeBritto said.

"This is really one of those no-win situations where we're just not going to please everybody. Some people want a complete ban and others have issues with that, so we'll just do the best we can."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at

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