Burn rules should be modernized

Today isn’t like the 1950s, when open burning of trash, leaves, brush and branches was a common practice of families and individuals, many of whom didn’t have close at hand the convenience of regular trash-collection service, municipal composting facilities and other disposal opportunities.

For many families during the mid-20th century and before ­­– especially in smaller communities — open burning was a necessity, to avoid accumulations of unwanted items or yard debris that, despite being unsightly, and in some cases dangerous, also attracted rodents and other unwanted pests.

Over the last half-century, as knowledge about respiratory diseases, allergies and other health conditions has increased — as well as knowledge about the adverse effects of air pollution on humans, animals and the environment in general — open burning increasingly has become more frowned upon and, in some places, taboo.

Meanwhile, some households, busy with jobs, other responsibilities and activities, simply don’t have time to imitate the practice of burning that had been commonplace in the lives of their parents and grandparents.

There’s also the matter of people’s pride in their homes and properties. Homeowners don’t relish the thought of a neighbor burning trash, leaves or brush, with the dirty smoke soiling the siding of their home or their recently washed windows or inhibiting their opportunities to fully enjoy being outdoors.

And to repeat, there are the health issues with which some individuals deal after having been exposed to open burning.

It can be said that officials of municipalities having many homes in close proximity to one another display irresponsibility when they don’t address that burning that is now obsolete because of the many services currently available.

Although there apparently is a relaxed attitude in the nation’s Capital about air pollution and the environment, air pollution and its effects on people remain a serious public concern nonetheless.

For one Blair County community — the borough of Duncansville — open burning is an issue currently at the forefront. As an article in Sunday’s Mirror reported, two residents attended a meeting of the borough council to ask that the council toughen the existing rules governing open burning or, preferably, prohibit open burning altogether, with the exception being recreational fires.

One of the residents pointed out that some of the smoke being dealt with in the town is particularly noxious because it stems from the burning of plastics.

The other resident made the point that it’s time for the council to bring the open-burning rules into the 21st century. The existing policy allows burning from approximately sunrise to sunset, except on Sundays, Mondays and holidays.

In the eyes of many people and communities, that time window is excessive.

Duncansville’s solicitor was directed to review the current ordinance and, presumably, offer guidance in terms of the council’s available options.

It isn’t the council’s responsibility to preserve the past when what existed in the past is now deemed potentially harmful and detrimental, based on the latest reliable medical, scientific and environmental evidence.

The forthcoming decision must be correct for the municipality and the majority of its citizens, after all of the arguments are reviewed and considered.

The council should not shirk its responsibility by tabling the issue indefinitely.