The acrid tang of burning leaves may soon be only a memory here, because the city council is researching the feasibility of an outdoor burning ban.

If the council decides on a ban, it will make John Brown happy. Brown, who lives on James Street in Flatwoods, is lobbying for the ban because he’s asthmatic and the smoke from burning leaves and debris hampers his breathing.

Besides asthmatics, the health hazards of outdoor burning harm young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with heart disease, allergies and chronic respiratory disease, Brown said at the council’s meeting Monday.

Currently Flatwoods allows burning between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. Brown said a total ban would be better than allowing burning on specified days because people would save up their leaves and debris and choke the atmosphere on those days with smoke from many fires.

He said that happened most recently on Nov. 25, a Saturday, and that smoke plagued the city through the night.

Brown said Flatwoods is susceptible to atmospheric inversions, in which one layer of air is trapped close to the earth and causes smoke to linger.

“A total ban on all open burning is the only safe course for our city to take. Many surrounding communities have had this in place for years, such as Huntington, Ashland and Ironton. They have done just fine with this approach for many years while protecting their citizens from the dangers of leaf and open burning in their communities.”

The ban he wants the council to consider would exempt indoor fireplaces, outdoor cookouts, ceremonial bonfires, training fires such as firefighters set for practice, and burning in an officially declared emergency.

Mayor Bobby Crager appointed a committee of council members, city fire chief Richard Blevins, himself and city attorney Stephen McGinnis to study the proposal.

Council member John Harris, who isn’t on the committee, said he favors a ban. “We should have addressed this a long time ago.”

Burning leaves may be a time-honored practice but it’s time to put an end to it, he said. “Everybody used to burn leaves, but there’s a lot of people with lung problems, and people should respect that.”

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