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Rockland wants to extinguish campfire complaints

By Stephen Betts | Sep 10, 2020

Rockland — Rockland officials are trying to resolve a dispute between several neighbors over campfires to avoid adopting a local law to regulate them.

The City Council briefly discussed the issue at its Sept. 9 agenda setting meeting.

Fire Chief Chris Whytock said he and Councilors Valli Geiger and Nate Davis would be talking about the issue, but he hopes it can be resolved without enacting an ordinance.

Councilor Geiger said one person is having frequent bonfires that generate a lot of dark smoke, leading to complaints from neighbors.

"We're trying to figure out if this just a neighbor-to-neighbor issue or if the material being burned is the problem. We certainly don’t want to ban small campfires, they are a way for people to still see one another as it gets colder," Geiger said.

Whytock agreed.

"On any given night there are numerous fires, legal camp fires and people are enjoying them in their backyards because you really can't enjoy anything else," the chief said, referring to the restrictions from COVID-19. "I would love to fix this without a broad stroke of the brush."

Geiger and Davis received complaints from some South End residents and the councilors have, in turn, talked with the fire chief and city manager.

The chief said they would be talking again later this week.

The fire chief said burning firewood and sitting around a fire to socialize or cook is allowed without any approval from the city. But, he said, you would need a permit if you are burning lawn debris or other materials.

The chief said if the fire is very smoky and the smoke is blowing into neighbors' windows, the department can come down and seek to correct the situation.

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Comments (14)
Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Sep 13, 2020 09:51

Years ago my neighbor reached out to me, after I had  a campfire in my backyard from afternoon way into the evening, and asked me to put it out because the smoke was bothering his wife.  Grateful that he did. After that  have always limited the time  lit.  Thoughtless of me, but  had never given it a second thought.

Posted by: Valerie Wass | Sep 13, 2020 06:09


Do you know for sure that the neighbor did not reach out and ask them to stop burning whatever they were burning?  This is an issue for the Fire Chief and has nothing to do with our tax bills.  I would be extremely upset if I was the neighbor that had to smell that dark smoke and have to close my windows.  Wouldn't you?

Posted by: Valerie Wass | Sep 13, 2020 06:06


I enjoy someone's camp fire and the smell of WOOD burning.  It reminds me of fall.  What they are stating here in the article is BLACK SMOKE which is not healthy by any means!  That so called camp fire has more than just wood in it.  Goodness knows what is burning and could be extremely toxic to breath in.  As I told Celia, I am stating facts.  I have a life and a very blessed one at that.

Posted by: Melissa Byer | Sep 12, 2020 20:42

I would think that we have much bigger issues in the town of Rockland then this. Like for instance the tax bills we are all waiting for. Celia Knight I agree with you! What ever happen to just reaching out to your neighbor and talking about it.

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Sep 12, 2020 05:35

Folks, You move to Maine you had better get used to wood smoke, 'cause we've got it.   You don't think so wait until the weather cools off a bit more with fireplaces and wood stoves being lit.  Get a life. Those folks savoring family and friends  around a campfire are doing life right, I'd say. ;)

Posted by: Barry Douglas Morse | Sep 11, 2020 19:22

Building a campfire is based on simple science, and is a skill almost anyone can learn. Unfortunately lots of people do not know how to build a smoke-free fire and the result is a pointless, sooty, unhealthy mess. Often, too little air space between logs is the culprit. Sometimes it's wet logs.


Learn to build a good campfire:


Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Sep 11, 2020 17:10

Valerie, I agree with you about the smoke. For two months a neighbor burned scrap wood in a barrel sometimes every week day from 3:30 pm to after dark. On weekends it could start as early as 10 am and last way after dark. We had to close our windows and doors and the smoke came in with the air conditioner. I suppose Celia Knight would welcome living in these conditions. My wife has asthma  and we never complained to the fire department because we knew it would cause friction. That black smoke I believe comes from Holmes Street which borders your area. These people don't care whether anyone likes it or not. I blame the homeowner for renting to them.


Posted by: Valerie Wass | Sep 11, 2020 16:37


I have quite a very blessed life.  No need for a hamster ball for me.  Yes, everyone does enjoy a campfire or fire pit as you called it but when someone is burning stuff that makes black smoke and smells, that is against the law.  Not complaining here.  Stating facts for you.

Posted by: Knight Marine Service | Sep 11, 2020 14:11

Ok complainers, let's just get everyone an individual hamster ball to live in!  People need to get a life, there is NOTHING wrong with enjoying a firepit.  There is a "certain" group in Rockland that are NEVER going to be happy.  They poke there noses into everyones business.  SO SICK OF IT!!!!  Celia Knight

Posted by: Amy Files | Sep 11, 2020 09:54

The current fire rules only allow for "cookfires" in proper "fire pits". If it's not either of those and there's a complaint then it's a police/fire issue and they should be fined for repeat offenses. There's also a specific list of what people can't burn which would cover most trash. I agree with the comments above -- I don't understand why Council is getting involved. I do think it would be helpful to provide residents with what a proper fire pit is -- a poorly built fire really can smoke your neighbors out. And it's certainly not healthy to be huffing wood smoke in your house.

Posted by: Valerie Wass | Sep 11, 2020 08:13

Seems quite plain to me.  If there is dark smoke, that is not a campfire.  They are burning something else and should be fined.  It is the fire chiefs responsibility to go and warn and talk to that person.  Why is this even being discussed between city officials?  This is what we pay the fire chief for.

Posted by: Gregory D Kibitz | Sep 11, 2020 06:44

But it seems like just as it gets cool and dry enough outside to turn off my AC & open all my windows, my neighbors get cold & build a fire, then fill my house with smoke, making me close all my windows and go back to AC.

Posted by: SUZANNE WINTERS | Sep 10, 2020 13:04

On August 20, we were going south on Rt73 at about 8:30-8:45 near Ocean Street and we could smell smoke ( t smelled like burning garbage, I would say that is not a camp fire.

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Sep 10, 2020 12:24

Wouldn't it be proper for the fire chief; or his representative; speak to the person having the campfire?  I have neighbors on Crescent Street who often sit out with friends and family and are absolutely no problem.  Am sure there is a positive way to resolve this.   There are several others close by who do it occasionally. Again, they cause absolutely no problem. Next someone will complain the nature space in my backyard will need to be mowed.

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