Published as FDNM letter to the editor “Smoke vote” 10/1/2010.
by Gary Schultz, Fairbanks
To the editor:
Some people talk a lot about freedom. They want freedom to do as they please. They don’t want someone to tell them what they can store on their property. And they don’t want someone to tell them how to run their wood stoves.
I am a great supporter of people’s right to do what they want. But that right should stop when their actions harm others. They should not have the right to drive down the values of neighbors’ land. Similarly, a person should have the right to burn firewood, as long as it is done in a way that doesn’t harm the quality of the air we breathe.
Several years ago, people started installing outdoor wood boilers. These boilers can take wood up to 4 feet long. Wood that long is difficult to split, and birch won’t dry unless it is split. So the wood they burn is wet. The boilers can take construction debris and old tires. Just yesterday I saw a gentleman collecting old oil-soaked timbers and formaldehyde-laden plywood from a Dumpster to use in his boiler.
These boilers are very, very hungry. Many consume 15 to 30 cords of wood each winter, while most indoor stoves burn a tenth of that. The burning of large volumes of unseasoned and inappropriate fuel has helped foul the air we breathe.
I have been a wood burner in Fairbanks for more than 30 years. I love the warm glow that emanates from my woodstove on a cold winter day. That feeling is something an oil burner can’t replace. But we must have clean air to breathe.
The few who are burning wood irresponsibly are jeopardizing the ability of the rest of us to burn wood. The borough needs tools to clean our air. Just asking people to use stoves properly is not enough. The wood smoke ordinance gives the borough the power to start cleaning up Fairbanks’ air. On Oct. 5, please vote “no” on Proposition A. And vote for assembly candidates who support the ordinance: Kelly Brown, Hank Bartos, Karl Kassel, and Diane Hutchison.
Clean Air Fairbanks recommends reviewing the relevant first section of Alaska’s Constitution.
Article 1 – Declaration of Rights
§ 1. Inherent Rights
This constitution is dedicated to the principles that all persons have a natural right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the enjoyment of the rewards of their own industry; that all persons are equal and entitled to equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law; and that all persons have corresponding obligations to the people and to the State.