My intention this bank holiday was to continue to tidy up after the madness of all that election activity and maybe to venture out into the garden if the rain held off. This morning was beautiful, but much to my disappointment what should have been a day of leisure at home was spoiled by a fire which burned for several hours in a neighbour’s garden. I think it is out now, but as I write this I have a sore throat.
A while ago I tried to stop the persistent burning of commercial and trade waste in another neighbour’s garden. It took a ridiculous number of phone calls and I learned on that occasion that, outside working hours, phoning the council just doesn’t work.
I like garden bonfires and a good meal and a good party can be had around a fire. But fires which burn building waste, fabrics, floor coverings, electrical equipment or furniture are all out of order: they are illegal and a statutory nuisance. They are illegal because they cause uncontrolled and potentially lethal air pollution, which has been illegal since the 1950s. These sorts of fires stink, give you a sore throat and give off a tell tale thick black smoke. The toxicity of fires burning plastics and random combinations of synthetic materials is extreme but it seems that many people have no idea how dangerous they are. Near my house two somebodies burned two noxious fires last night (I passed tell tale patches of smoke when I went out for a walk) and with another fire lit today not only are people suffering uneccessary exposure to pollutants, but escaping from the fumes just isn’t possible. Closing windows does not stop smoke or invisible fumes penetrating buildings.
Fire nuisances are one of the biggest problems Peterborough residents have to put up with. They are very nasty to live with and they have an impact on peoples’ health. The city’s air monitors are not always in the right places to pick up these back garden events in residential areas, monitoring apparently being focussed on vehicle emissions by the sides of the busiest roads. And people can’t always pick up the awful smells: as if they had completely lost their sense of smell.
I haven’t lost mine and I rang 999. The fire service attended immediately and checked that somebody was looking after the fire and left. The fire continued to burn. When I rang Dogsthorpe fire station later to find out what had happened I was told that ringing 999 had not been my best course of action. I had a quick chat explaining exactly how useful I found it going through the correct channels and followed this up with the following email to the fire service.
“You yourself tried and couldn’t get through to the Environmental Health Officer today – bank holiday. But I think this applies to anybody needing help outside office hours.
These fires are usually lit outside working hours and often in the dark: so to solve the problem the council would have to provide a well signposted out of hours service.
If you look on its website this is the council’s page about air pollution: http://www.peterborough.gov.uk/services_a-z.aspx?ServID=8 and if you click “bonfires” at point 6 you get this a page not found: http://www.peterborough.gov.uk/page_not_found.aspx?p=%2Fpage-10443
this is the council’s page about nuisances: http://www.peterborough.gov.uk/environment/pollution/nuisances.aspx . From there if you scroll down to “useful links” and find click “garden bonfire leaflet” (which should take you to an external link) you get this page not found: http://www.environmental-protection.org.uk/assets/library/documents/Bonfires_leaflet_Oct07.pdf
I look forward to hearing your views and whether or not anything can be done to improve this crazy situation.”
Meanshile the fireman I had chatted to revisited the fire, because although he hadn’t seen anything nasty in the fire, he had noticed things close to the fire which worried him. When he went back he found carpet and a mattress burning and this decided him to put the fire out.
I knew that I wouldn’t be able to report this incident to the council by phone today, which is a bank holiday, but I had a go anyway. Peterborough council’s direct line is 01733 747474. This number advises an emergency number, which is 01733 864157. When I tried this number I was told that the Environmental Health Officer does not work out of hours and all I could do was leave a message, just asking for a phone call, which I did.
Tomorrow I will have to spend yet more time to report this to the Environmental Health Officer at the council. I think there should be somone on call to deal with environmental health issues 24 hours a day. And I think one phone call should be enough. What do you think?
Meanwhile thank you to Blue Watch at Dogsthorpe Fire Station for helping today!