A local group is fighting to ban outdoor recreational wood fires over what they claim is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Take Back the Air has hired attorney Gale Mellum to petition the City of Edina to ban bonfires. In a letter addressed to the City Council and other Edina officials, Mellum argued wood burning at public events "presents an accessibility issue for children and anyone with breathing issues and other disabilities."
"Just as tobacco smoke is regulated in parks and in public establishments, my clients urge you to enact and enforce a ban against all outdoor recreational burning so that citizens can use their properties and public spaces without the toxic effects of wood smoke," Mellum wrote. "If Edina does not address outdoor wood burning regulation in the near future, individual or collective lawsuits could be brought against the city for not protecting public health, citizens' property rights, and everyone's right to access public spaces."
In addition to alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the letter claims the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act could also be "used to require Edina to improve the air quality within the city."
Organizer Julie Mellum, who suffers from severe asthma, claims she became sick from wood smoke and was forced to stop walking around Edinborough Park due to smoke from wood fires at nearby restaurants.
Mellum told local TV news outlet KSTP residents have "a guaranteed basic civil right to breath clean air on our own properties, but also at public spaces."
"Wood smokes does prevent an actual physical barrier," she said. "Cities are supposed to remove barriers so that people can enjoy the parks and public spaces like streets and sidewalks."
Take Back the Air wants the city to not only ban outdoor bonfires, but also to change the wood-burning fireplace at Centennial Lakes Park's Centrum Building over to gas-burning.
City Manager Scott Neal said no plans are in place to switch that fireplace over or to existing city ordinances regarding outdoor bonfires.
"Human beings gathering around a campfire is a long tradition in this state and in the country," Neal told KSTP.