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Monitor needless burning

Not all Gallitzin Borough residents are happy about the municipality’s new total ban on burning.

The municipality has had a burning ban in effect since 2006, but the one exception to that rule has been “friendship fires” — small fires meant for enjoyment.

Now, those fires are forbidden also, with borough officials having responded to concerns about the coronavirus — one symptom of which is decreased respiratory function — as well as smoke’s impact on individuals with seasonal allergies or flu, or other conditions.

Like Gallitzin, many other communities prohibit or limit burning, while others have no restrictions despite acknowledging smoke’s negative impacts on some people and the environment.

There are residents perhaps in every community who loathe the practice, not only due to health concerns but also for the way smoke can dirty siding of homes or businesses, as well as windows.

Some communities, during this supposedly more enlightened time of health awareness and excellent trash-hauling services, continue to cling to the distant past, when it was commonplace for families to burn their trash routinely in their backyards or in an adjacent alley.

Meanwhile, in some communities, people remove twigs or tree branches and, rather than cut them into manageable pieces and bag and dispose of them, spend hours burning sizable piles of them without regard to how that practice might be impacting neighbors, passers-by or nearby — and even not-so-nearby — structures.

But over the years many communities have awakened to burning’s unpleasant consequences — even the burning of leaves in the fall — and they deserve praise for having acted on behalf of the health and appearance of their neighborhoods.

While burning in rural areas where few homes exist might be acceptable, burning in a residential neighborhood should be persistently discouraged.

Gallitzin isn’t a large borough, but it is not rural either. Considering burning’s identified negative impacts, its leaders’ stance on the burning issue is commendable, although even sometimes allowing “friendship fires” can reasonably be opposed as repugnant and unhealthy.

Before the new restriction is lifted, it should be subjected to more discussion and collection of residents’ input.

In an April 11 Mirror article, Police Chief Gerald Hagen was quoted as saying “We’ve been trying to educate and explain to them (residents) to comply, rather than give fines.”

He said most people understand and agree with the thinking behind the beefed-up anti-burning rule, but he acknowledged that citations might have to be issued to those who continue to ignore the ban.

It was Gregory Patterson, emergency management coordinator for Gallitzin and neighboring Tunnelhill Borough, who recommended to Gallitzin Mayor Alan Wahl that all fires be banned, partly in response to the fact that the majority of the town’s residents are over 60 years old. Anyone who follows the news is aware of the daily reminders that people over 60 are more susceptible to contracting COVID-19, as well as people with certain other health conditions, weakened immune systems and those being treated for cancer.

Most of the people responsible for the fires in question are not intentionally unruly people; many simply haven’t exercised consideration regarding what’s beyond their own household.

Perhaps the news coverage that Gallitzin’s decision has received will help broaden the awareness of problems to which unnecessary burning can contribute or exacerbate — in Gallitzin and beyond.

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