Local fire departments will investigate any complaints, but can only do something about the complaints if they are related to the actual materials being burned, not the smoke.
“I can understand frustration of the public about what is going on, but it’s a matter of who has the authority do deal with what,” Bayside Fire Chief Bob Himes said.
Under Kodiak Island Borough Code 8.35, grass, tree branches, scrap lumber and other burnable materials can be burned in the open with a permit and some restrictions. Borough burn permits are available on the borough’s website, and any person who conducts an open burn is responsible for personal or property damage caused by the burn.
Non-permitted materials include tires, painted, stained or treated lumber, shingles, electrical wiring, rope, plastic, fiberglass, and insulation, among others.
The city also issues permits for open burns within city jurisdiction.
“We will enforce Kodiak Island Borough ordinance if we find that non-permitted materials are being burned or if there is a danger that the fire will spread and cause damage,” Himes said.
The code does not address air quality caused by the smoke, other than mentioning that materials that produce black smoke are not permitted. If borough authorities find illegal burning, the responsible party will be ordered to put out the fire and dispose of the material properly.
Complaints regarding the smoke itself should be directed to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.
The Kodiak Island Borough Code does not address air quality because it is the exclusive domain of the DEC.
“The Kodiak Island Borough and the area fire departments do not have the training or equipment to conduct air quality monitoring,” Himes said.
In the past, the DEC has looked into complaints, and has even issued citations over the phone.
“We’ve received calls in the past, and the DEC has taken action,” said Bud Cassidy, acting borough manager. “Getting the word to the DEC is part of the issue.”
Violations of the open burning ordinance can be reported to the borough code enforcement officer or the borough manager at 486-9300. Violations in the Monashka Bay area can also be reported to the Bayside Fire Station at 486-4536, while violations in the Womens Bay area can be reported to the Womens Bay Fire Station at 487-4312.
To report possible air quality violations contact the DEC at 907-269-7562.