Sabbatical week #3: What should Northfielders know about or discuss this week?


  1. Helen Albers said:

    New subject! FIRE PITS

    Smoked out!

    Often, in my bedrooms and living room, it is filled with smoke from Fire Pits burning in our neighborhood. Two nights ago, I walked east on 4th Street as the smoke became more dense over a block away! The Northfield city ordinance states burning should be 50′ away from buildings, but smoke carries much farther than 50′. The carcinogens and particles in wood smoke are destructive to my eyes and lungs. (I made a 50′ Putt at The Legacy this past week, and smoke can travel farther than an Albers’ Putt.) Believe Me! On our farms south of Dundas, a Rice County Permit is required for any burning. Why not in our residential city? Please contact the city council if you, too, have concerns! Thank you!

    August 22, 2011
  2. Griff Wigley said:

    Great topic, Helen. Last week’s Nfld News: Fire pit regulations ignite debate

    Councilors asked city staff to investigate two parts of the current code: At what distance fires should be kept from structures and how best to define structure.

    Susie Nakasian, who represents the First Ward, wondered if the word structure should include only residential buildings or secondary structures such as sheds.

    August 22, 2011
  3. Helen Albers said:

    I encourage all to read the Mpls Star Tribune Editorial “Good Air Makes Good Neighbors.” Monday, Aug. 22.
    This informative article emphasizes that “air pollution contributes to serious health problems, including acute bronchitis, asthma, heart attacks and other respiratory illnesses.
    We must work to eliminate smoke hazards from Fire Pits in our city of Northfield..
    We are all entitled to Clean Air!
    Please urge our City Council to follow the Clean Air Act of 2010.
    Be an environmental steward, and contact our City Council. Families have always enjoyed togetherness without breathing unhealthy wood smoke! The last incidence of my smoke-filled home was from a Fire Pit one block away!!
    Our son and I saw truckloads of wood on our streets on Sunday so this is a major problem!
    Thank You!

    August 22, 2011
  4. Steve Wilmot said:

    Isn’t clean air the reason the City compost and brush site no longer burns?

    It would seem rather silly to say that the City shouldn’t be burning at the compost site, only to endorse burning at scattered sites throughout the City.

    I enjoy a good campfire, but lets consider what the left and right hands are doing here!

    August 23, 2011
  5. What ever happened to Obama’s Green Job initiative?

    August 23, 2011
  6. David Henson said:

    I appreciate the concerns but I vote for more community fire pits as the social benefits would seem greater than risks. I am also against requiring permits for grilling and wearing perfume.

    August 24, 2011
  7. Steve Wilmot said:

    Great idea, David H. Community fire pits would indeed provide social benefits. This would be a great fit for the proposed campground idea that came up recently.

    On the permit idea for perfume and grilling, I’m not sure where that comes from or what you mean there.

    I can only tell you from watching someone react to perfumes and other fragrances that it is a real and serious health issue for them, whether others choose to believe this or not. That these people have an already limited area where they can go and not be exposed to such things is all the more reason to keep their homes free and clear of unwanted intrusions.

    August 24, 2011
  8. Helen Albers said:

    The City of Northfield does need a review of its fire pit ordinance.
    There must be more emphasis on smoke filled neighborhoods, and less concern about a building burning! Let’s think people endangered!
    Why not a ‘community” area for fire pits away from neighbors who are harmed by smoke?
    What a friendly, sociable space this would be! Children could play together, and not just sit and breathe carcinogens from smoke.
    Northfield has never looked to Faribault for their decisions! Not in my life.
    Let’s return to healthy air, without smoke-filled home interiors in our beautiful city?

    August 24, 2011
  9. David Henson said:

    How do fireplaces in homes differ in smoke production ?

    August 24, 2011
  10. Arlen Malecha said:


    I would assume it is much the same as from a fire pit only the smoke it sucked up the chimney and dispelled at a higher altitude.

    August 24, 2011
  11. Dan Freeman said:

    As a person with late onset of Asthma I am unfortunately acutely aware of what wayward smoke can do to a person. From time to time heavy smoke crashes into my abode from a nearby smoke pit. It is both acrid and unwanted for those of us with breathing disorders. One wonders why the city is thinking about decreasing rather than increasing the distance that a fire must be from a dwelling. One thing is obvious; the rights of those with serious COPD or other breathing disorders are not being considered.

    August 24, 2011
  12. Arlen Malecha said:


    I have sympathy for you and other folks who suffer with breathing issues (as well as other medical conditions) but I wonder how one balances the medical needs of one against the right of a homeowner to enjoy a campfire in their own yard?

    It tis a slippery slope to be sure.

    Some here have suggested community fire pits but if they aren’t out in the middle of a field someplace they too are going to cause some smoke in a neighborhood, perhaps more because the fires might be larger.

    I would be interested to hear what other folks think.

    August 24, 2011
  13. john george said:

    Arlen- I think some of these issues revolve around being a good neighbor. I don’t have a fire pit, but if I did, and I found out that one of my neighbors had asthma, I would refrain from burning wood in the pit. A slight inconvenience for me could improve a neighbor’s life immensely. I don’t think other people should have to suffer physically just so I could have some pleasure.

    August 24, 2011
  14. Helen Albers said:


    Appreciate your thoughtful, caring response!

    Thank you!


    August 24, 2011
  15. Arlen Malecha said:


    I totally agree with your comments. I too would forgo a fire if I knew it impacted my neighbors health.

    Often I have said that all homes should be built closer to the front sidewalks and have a front porch so families would hang out there and get to know the folks passing by. I wish neighbors everywhere would get to know each other better.

    Rather than trying to make a one-size-fits-all ordinance about firepits we should encourage neighbors to communicate with each other. I like to believe that most folks would be symathetic to the medical issues of their neighbor.

    August 25, 2011
  16. john george said:

    Arlen- I like your suggestion about house location on a lot. I grew up on a small farm in SE Iowa (Yes, I’ve heard ALL the Iowa jokes!). Our spring, summer and fall evenings, when weather permitted and we were not in the fields, were spent on rocking chairs in the front yard. If a neighbor drove past, he would often stop in just to visit. Even in a smaller town like Northfield, it is easy to lose this familiarity with your neighbors just because of the business of our own lives. Three nights a week, I do not get home until around 10:00 pm, and I work weekends. Many of my neighbors work different shifts and in other cities, also, so there is not the natural connections anymore. Our horizons have expanded, and our lives are so consumed with electronic communications, that we have to make a concerted effort to get to know one another. I mow a couple neighbor’s lawns just for the fun of it and for the connection with them that it gives me. We don’t have to be trapped in our own schedules. I think we can allow some margins for other people, but it does take effort.

    August 25, 2011

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