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Unseasoned Wood Burning?

By MrMagoo - 1 July 2011 40

Does anyone know the avenues for dealing with a neighbour using unseasoned wood in their fire?  There is a person in our street who seems oblivious to the rest of society and is constantly using green unseasoned wood in his fire.  The smell is intolerable and the resultant air quality issues and subsequent need to re-wash clothing etc is becoming annoying.

I assume its a TAMS matter… i.e. nothing can/will be done in effect.

Thanks.

What’s Your opinion?


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Unseasoned Wood Burning?
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frank1969 6:12 pm 16 Jul 11

The Environmental Protection Authority are the ones who are supposed to respond to these complaints. Unfortunately though the rules about chimneys smoking excessively are so completely useless that it’s impossible for any action to be taken, ever. You have to get an EPA officer out there at the right time to see the chimney smoking for thirty minutes straight before they can even start to do anything. And I can tell you that it’s next to impossible.

First you have to call Canberra Connect to get them to pass the message to the EPA guy, that will take 10-15 minutes to complete. Then it’s another 15-30 minutes before the EPA calls you back to ask what the problem. Then on top of that you’d be looking at another 20 minutes or more for them to actually come out. By that time it’s usually too late. Chances are also that once they get there they’ll say that the smoke isn’t dark enough.

The EPA guys know all this to, so they really don’t make any effort at all. They just turn up because they get paid over time for it! I would genuinely be amazed if anyone in the ACT has ever been fined over a smoking chimney. It’s just set up to be impossible for it to ever happen.

I strongly believe that if the problem of individual wood heaters being poorly operated in unsuitable locations was properly addressed, then wood heaters and smoke would cease to be such an issue. This means making proper rules about where you can locate the flue, and more importantly giving the EPA guys and even the police the power to more easily stop the heaters being used if they are genuinely causing problems for the surrounding residents.

As it stands at the moment, the people with the wood heaters are the ones with all the rights. Their right to choose that particular form of heating can and does override the right of anyone else around them to the quiet enjoyment of their home, every time.

There is nothing fair and equal about that. Period.

I’m not saying ban wood heaters outright. Just level the playing field a bit so that if there genuinely is a problem, you can have reasonable chance of actually having something done about it.

00davist 8:48 pm 05 Jul 11

@GardeningGirl

I Agree with you completely, Coming from a family that used wood heating, i know allot about doing it properly (But when we moved here i still took the time to read up, and make sure)

That is not the case in allot of rental properties, and there would easily be a number of young people moving into rental accommodation with poor condition wood heating, and/or who simply have never experienced wood heating, and have no reason to realise its more than just burning anything wooden in a box!

In my case, our landlords are very good, and our equipment is well maintained, I realise my situation is more extreme, i live in a remote area now, and wood burning is common place, and necessary (We don’t have a gas service out here, just bottled gas, which is ineffective for more than a couple of small gas heaters at best) but most families here have been in the area for generations, and grew up on wood, so bad burners are not really an issue here. I was lucky enough when i lived in Canberra (A number of years, until this Feb) to have reasonable, and usually gas heating in most houses, but not everyone has this when renting.

You are absolutely right about the lack of provisions or maintenance some landlords give, however, a ban on all wood fire would only further dis advantage tenants in that situation.

GardeningGirl 6:22 pm 05 Jul 11

00davist said :

Further, many people renting who has only wood fires in the property would find it hard to survive with your proposed ban, they do not have the choice to install efficient alternatives

Factors that contribute to the smoke problem include people who do not know how to operate wood heaters properly, lack of appropriate wood storage and use of inappropriate combustibles. I’m not suggesting it’s the case with you 00davist, but wood heaters in rental properties seem to me to have the potential to be particularly troublesome. Imagine a property with an old cheap wood heater and a landlord who can’t be bothered updating it or having the flue cleaned regularly or providing covered firewood storage, add new tenants every year or two who have no experience with operating wood heaters and no interest in burning anything that costs too much. Not a good situation.
From experience I can say landlords who think those small electric wall heaters are okay aren’t any better. I wonder what percentage of rental properties have heating of a reasonable standard for both the comfort of the occupants and the welfare of the planet?

00davist 5:19 pm 05 Jul 11

That should have been

“many people who are renting houses that only have woodfires”

Sorry!

00davist 4:57 pm 05 Jul 11

@ Madamcholet

The iron of your comment is astounding; you talk about people having only though of themselves, in a rant that shows you are only thinking of YOURSELF!

Have you considered the other side of this at all?

Some of us use wood fires to cover a number of tasks, and between the increasing costs of electricity, and the layout for new appliances, it simply is not an option to look for alternatives. Further, many people renting who has only wood fires in the property would find it hard to survive with your proposed ban, they do not have the choice to install efficient alternatives, and the only alternative left is to have eclectic heaters in many rooms, I would gladly consider this if you would like to pay the bills for me?

In my house we still use wood combustion for Heating, Cooking and Hot water (Although for summer we keep a small electric hotplate, and the hot water does have a backup to electric system) we are also renting, and do not have the option to install fixed appliances. If wood fires were banned, the increase to our electricity bill would be huge, especially at winter, considering Water, heat and cooking would have to be moved over to a number of in-efficient, portable devices.

Now, while i certainly do not agree with the burning of green wood (Mr Magoo, I understand your pain fully, we had a fresh pine burner next door for a bit) your attitude of “I don’t like it, so it should be banned for everyone” shows that you are only willing to think of yourself.

I agree more needs to be done to prevent situations like this, in which careless, ignorant and arrogant neighbours are causing issues for those around them by not doing it properly, but a blanket ban is, to put it simply, a narrow minded, naive, and stupid idea!

shadow boxer 3:30 pm 05 Jul 11

Watson said :

scorpio63 said :

I have a wood fire used only of an evening, using wood kept in the garage for two winters past (definitely not green). I see though the other side of the coin given a previous neighbour used to stink out the street every Saturday and Sunday burning his rubbish using some type of chemical, instead of visiting the tip, until his fence ignited, and almost burned the next door neighbour’s house down.

I recommend the following options. Either purchase $100 or $150 of firewood from the Sapphire Coast people or at Fyshwick or Hume and have it delivered to your neighbour as a surprise ‘goodwill’ neighbourly gesture. He/she may just have some remaining after the next two months for next winter and enjoy the decent fire and heat from excellent firewood.

Or submit an anonymous complaint (what goes around comes around) through Canberra Connect.

Not one argument was I ever subjected to with my 17 year street neighbours and on the odd occasions purchased a much needed item for a few of them and their kids when I could afford it out of goodwill not bribery.

Your attitude is to be commended, Scorpio. There’s a saying where I come from that translates losely as: “It’s better to have a good neighbour than a faraway friend”.

But of course it does take two to tango and it may not always work out…

I prefer “good fences make good neighbours” but each to their own.

MrMagoo 3:25 pm 05 Jul 11

For all and sundry who have assumed that I haven’t bothered approaching the situation directly, wake up and smell the coffee!!! I’m old school, was taught that the best way to deal with issues is to confront them. I’m now looking for action because they seem a. oblivious and b. unwilling to do anything about the polution he is producing.

Watson 10:39 am 03 Jul 11

scorpio63 said :

I have a wood fire used only of an evening, using wood kept in the garage for two winters past (definitely not green). I see though the other side of the coin given a previous neighbour used to stink out the street every Saturday and Sunday burning his rubbish using some type of chemical, instead of visiting the tip, until his fence ignited, and almost burned the next door neighbour’s house down.

I recommend the following options. Either purchase $100 or $150 of firewood from the Sapphire Coast people or at Fyshwick or Hume and have it delivered to your neighbour as a surprise ‘goodwill’ neighbourly gesture. He/she may just have some remaining after the next two months for next winter and enjoy the decent fire and heat from excellent firewood.

Or submit an anonymous complaint (what goes around comes around) through Canberra Connect.

Not one argument was I ever subjected to with my 17 year street neighbours and on the odd occasions purchased a much needed item for a few of them and their kids when I could afford it out of goodwill not bribery.

Your attitude is to be commended, Scorpio. There’s a saying where I come from that translates losely as: “It’s better to have a good neighbour than a faraway friend”.

But of course it does take two to tango and it may not always work out…

EvanJames 9:56 am 03 Jul 11

madamcholet said :

Typical RA respondents at work again I see. Such narrow mindedness as usual – “I’m alright so I don’t care about anyone else”.

Agree. It’s bizarre how some people feel the need to put their fingers on the keyboard and say “I don’t care about your problem, plus you are stupid for having the problem”.

Gases, smoke, odors, fumes, all are things that you can’t block out or prevent from entering your airspace. Some of these things cause real harm, others distress or annoyance.

Some years ago, smokers were prevented by law from polluting the air of others in various situations. What is the difference between that and someone using moist wood on their fire, people marinating themselves in cheap perfume and polluting the air with it, or other airborne pollutants?

Most reasonable people accept that smokers don’t have the right to inflict their smoke on others. What’s the difference between that and other harmful/unpleasant airborne substances?

scorpio63 11:41 pm 02 Jul 11

I have a wood fire used only of an evening, using wood kept in the garage for two winters past (definitely not green). I see though the other side of the coin given a previous neighbour used to stink out the street every Saturday and Sunday burning his rubbish using some type of chemical, instead of visiting the tip, until his fence ignited, and almost burned the next door neighbour’s house down.

I recommend the following options. Either purchase $100 or $150 of firewood from the Sapphire Coast people or at Fyshwick or Hume and have it delivered to your neighbour as a surprise ‘goodwill’ neighbourly gesture. He/she may just have some remaining after the next two months for next winter and enjoy the decent fire and heat from excellent firewood.

Or submit an anonymous complaint (what goes around comes around) through Canberra Connect.

Not one argument was I ever subjected to with my 17 year street neighbours and on the odd occasions purchased a much needed item for a few of them and their kids when I could afford it out of goodwill not bribery.

Nightshade 6:07 pm 02 Jul 11

MrMagoo, to answer your original question, the Environment Protection Authority deals with nuisance woodsmoke issues. Contact them by calling Canberra Connect and saying that you want to speak to someone about a woodsmoke problem (or lodge a complaint about it, if you’re at that point), and they will transfer you to the appropriate people. The rangers who investigate these complaints are the same ones who deal with barking dog complaints etc.

Watson 12:59 pm 02 Jul 11

niknak said :

…and another thing!

If a bit of woodsmoke is going to see you off this mortal coil, consider it nothing more than survival of the fittest.

Nature’s quite ruthless about natural selection, unlike modern medicine. If you can’t get through winter without your throat closing over and your lungs seizing up, really, what are you adding to the gene pool?

Yeah, let’s close our hospitals and doctor’s practices now! Survival of the fittest is the way to go. *rolls eyes*

Diggety 12:35 pm 02 Jul 11

Niknak for Prime Minister.

Common sense is too uncommon.

GardeningGirl 12:29 pm 02 Jul 11

If some of the comments on this thread are indicative of what might greet me if I were to knock on a neighbour’s door to discuss how operating their wood heater properly would alleviate my physical discomfort then I’d definitely choose to leave it to the authorities.

madamcholet said :

Such narrow mindedness as usual – “I’m alright so I don’t care about anyone else”.

Says it all really 🙁

Tooks 11:46 am 02 Jul 11

How about you go and knock on the neighbour’s door and have a chat with them about it? You know, like an adult with basic social skills?

Watson 9:45 am 02 Jul 11

I love the smell of a good campfire as much as the next person. But I wonder how many people enjoy sitting around a smoky stinky fire?

I’ve lived near people who will burn anything and everything in their fireplaces. The worst is the chemical smells from paints and varnishes.

And there is one small problem with asking the neighbours face to face to change their ways first. If you plan to take it further if they don’t comply with your request, they’d know that it was you dobbing them in with the authorities lateron. Hardly a great move towards a civil relationship with your neighbours.

Auntyem 7:49 am 02 Jul 11

If it truly is ‘unseasoned’ wood – the sap will stick to the inside of the chimney. This happened to a neighbour of mine a few years back. Too much unseasoned wood, sap in the chimney stack – the inside of the chimney caught fire. We helped hose it down, but it made a stinking mess of their house when the water came down the chimney and washed through the lounge room.

Just sit back and wait for the drama to unfold…

Walker 12:00 am 02 Jul 11

I’ve had a lot of problems with the smoke, I’m not asthmatic but I do breathe air now and then.

In fact I like the smell of a proper burning fire, within reason. Burning hot, so it sucks up (..princess).

That’s one thing. But there are problems when it’s done by people determined to burn anything in sight. In years past I’ve seen Dickson oval fumigated, with people trying to play sport. I had to shut the car air vents to get through it. Breathing is believing.

It’s not always easy to spot the source at night. Anyone out there enjoying a fire, I just ask, please burn it nice and hot at least to start with, get it really going, and use the right stuff.

caf 10:35 pm 01 Jul 11

I would suggest to the OP that it falls into the “right to quiet enjoyment” basket, and as such is a police matter (just like noise pollution).

SOLIPSISTIC 10:01 pm 01 Jul 11

niknak said :

In this over-sanitised, paternalistic society, woodsmoke is about the only genuine smell we have left.

Gutsy, hearty, real.

Crack a can. If you haven’t got the cojones to go next door and suggest your neighbour uses dry wood, or ducted gas heating, or electric reverse cycle heating, suck it up. Literally. It’s not a TAMS problem.

By the way, there’s no such thing as ‘clean” energy. Cause and effect, ‘n all that. Someone, somewhere, is suffering energy displacement. Why shouldn’t it be you?

AMEN! I know I should not use someone’s post as a blog off the subject but I simply agree whole heartedly with niknak’s comment. Cheers to you sir!

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