The Burn Bans: Residents speak out

Published: Mar. 27, 2018 at 7:04 PM AKDT
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With the Fairbanks North Star Borough Air Alert Burn Restrictions ending this week, Amanda Brennan takes a look at how this Winter's burn bans affected local citizens in the first of a three part series.

"I've lost the trust that I've had in the borough that they are going to do the things that they say. So I don't want them to have my address, I don't want them to know anything about my device, or my property. They haven't found my property, yet, and I'd like to keep it that way."

Amanda Brennan; Reporting>>: Between October 1st and March 31st, the Borough's Air Quality Division issues Stage 1 and Stage 2 alerts for the North Pole and Fairbanks Nonattainment areas. During a Stage 1 alert, burning is only permitted by those who have a Stage 1 Waiver or a No Other Adequate Source of Heat Waiver. During a Stage 2 Alert, all burning of solid fuels is prohibited unless a NOASH Waiver has been issued. This Winter the borough issued almost 40 days total of Stage 2 Alerts for North Pole and fewer than 10 for Fairbanks. Although, these burn bans are designed to decrease the PM 2.5 particulate levels, some community members have concerns about the effects on North Pole residents.

North Pole Resident; Non-Compliant>>: "So I have to choose between do I heat my home, or do I not heat my home and risk harming my house and my family and everything else?"

Amanda Brennan; Reporting>>: Another North Pole resident says the biggest issue he comes across is how to plan for the Stage 2 alerts.

Jeff Culley; North Pole Resident>>: "The biggest issue is planning because I have, I look at my income, my expenses. The burn bans are going to affect me this year probably to the tune of 15 or $1600 in extra fuel costs because I can't burn the dry wood that I have stacked outside my house now. How do I start saving money now for these costs that the borough is going to make me incur."

Amanda Brennan; Reporting>>: Some say the feeling of the borough overreaching its authority has caused them to voluntarily be non-compliant.

North Pole Resident; Non-Compliant>>: "From my understand I would be able to get a NOASH waiver just because of my financial circumstances, but I don't want to do that. I am a responsible adult with a family, and I feel that the borough's demand that I apply for permission to burn is too much. It's too much information. They don't need to know what my income level is and they don't need to know if I am or are not on government assistance in order to grant me the ability to burn wood, which I was doing three years ago."

Amanda Brennan; Reporting>>: Not all residents feel the same way. At the February town hall meeting on Air Quality a Fairbanks resident said she is worried about the medical dangers of high particulate levels.

Fairbanks Resident>>: "We have a serious health problem and I really want to see our community come together and support each other in improving the air to improve our health. Thank you."

Amanda Brennan; Reporting>>: Although, there is a heated debate regarding the borough's standards and alert system, one shared understanding among the community members is the need for clean air in the Interior. Tomorrow we take a look at Mayor Karl Kassel's and other government officials' responses to the North Pole residents' comments and concerns. Amanda Brennan Reporting.