For generations, residents of Mesa County on the state's Western Slope have been what some clean air activists view as "burn happy." At a rate three times higher than a similar agriculture-based county, Mesa County residents obtain permits to burn weeds, yard waste and farm fields. They have celebratory backyard bonfires, and some of them illegally burn household and construction trash rather than taking it to the landfill.
A group called Citizens for Clean Air has been working for nearly three years to try to douse some of that burning because of its effects on health, tourism and recreation. Visitors complain about all the smoke in the air. Physicians say it negatively affects patients with allergy and lung problems. And new residents wonder why there are all those plumes of smokes in the air in spring and fall.
Last week, members of the clean air group went before the Grand Junction City Council with an ordinance that would have snuffed out some of the burning. The ordinance would have still allowed backyard firepits, barbecues and tiki torches. But burning weeds, branches and leaves in city limits would have been forbidden.
Opponents convinced the council to shelve the ordinance until changes are made that will allow some property owners to continue burning. The burn-baby-burn crowd and the anti-flame group now have until next March to hammer out a new agreement before the next burn season gets underway.