Wood Smoke Stories

There are no laws to protect us

We lived in our suburban tree filled Georgia neighborhood for 20+ years. I spent a lot of time outside gardening and enjoying clean country air until our new neighbors moved in next door.

After about a year they began burning yard debris in a barrel and wood fires for enjoyment in a homemade outdoor fireplace not 50 feet from my home (although we all live on an acre and they had room on the other side of their lot). I asked politely if they would move their fires to the opposite side. I told them I have been in a habit of leaving windows open and now my house and yard was uncomfortably filled with smoke. I asked if they could call me if they were going to have a fire do I could shut windows and leave. It’s sad that my quality of life style had to change so they could enjoy polluting the air, but I was trying to reach out with understanding and patience. They responded with aggression refusing to compromise.

We asked the forestry commission to intervene and they left a brochure at their door but the neighbors called the police on us thinking we “trespassed”. We tried to get the fire Marshall to talk to them, and they called the police on us and after 3 years of this they finally cut down on their burning, but they still do it occasionally and of course it’s on the most beautiful fall and spring days when I would have had all my windows open in the past.

We thought about moving but it’s not financially feasible. I haven’t worked in my garden in years and it’s all turned to weeds. There are no laws to protect us and the air we breathe where I live in Georgia. When the police were here one time I mentioned that I had reached out and asked the neighbors to at least let me know when they were going to burn and the officer said to me, “it sounds like you want them to enjoy backyard fires only when it’s convenient for you”. It’s such a horrible smell when you’re used to breathing clean forest air.