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Smoked Out

Fire Pit Smoke

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I live in South FL.  My neighbor has a fire pit, the SE ocean breezes direct the smoke on to my property and into my home.  My property takes a direct hit because the neighbor resides behind me.  I live in a residential neighborhood and the property lots are small and very close together.  From my home to the wood fence that divides our properties, there is a distance of only 20 feet.  I cannot move my house to avoid the smoke and even with my windows closed, my home can smell like smoke. 

I have lived in my home for 33 years, the new neighbor moved in 6 years ago ( I add this info just in case someone was wondering if I had moved in here knowing this was going to happen). 

 

I first tried speaking to my neighbor about the smoke from the fires and asked them to put them out.  Ok so that didn't work out well, so then I tried to explain how it effects my health and property and even offered to buy them seasoned wood to cut down on the amount of smoke emitted (they refused my offer).  The neighbor advised me that they would build smaller fires (at one time they were building huge bonfires) and told me that the fires were smokey because they had had a lot of leftover construction materials to burn (which is illegal because of the chemicals in treated lumber). 

 

The fires continued with the smoke, so over the past 6 years in order to resolve this issue, I have enlisted Code enforcement, sheriff's dept., fire dept., county EPA dept., and city officials (Commissioners and Mayor) for help.  The neighbor was told by authorities to use only seasoned wood and to move the firepit away from the wood fence.  The vice Mayor even visited their home and pleaded with them on my behalf.  The only results have been to cause the neighbor to become more defensive and retaliate by burning more often and unfortunately they continue to burn what ever they want to.  Last night they were chopping up and burning pallet wood (treated or untreated lumber, we will never know for sure) so I had EPA come out to document the smoke and the effect it is having on my property. 

 

The city that I reside in has a code that states that open burning is prohibited without a permit, but exemptions include fire pits if used for cooking purposes.  So, as far as the city and the county are concerned, it's ok to burn wood in a fire pit for cooking, or any other appliance intended for that purpose.  Unfortunately however, it can't be proven if they are cooking or what they are burning because no authority is allowed to enter the neighbor's backyard unless the neighbor allows them to do so. 

 

Wood smoke can contain up to 40 times more toxins than cigarette smoke and produces particulate matter as small as PM2.5 which the EPA considers to be harmful. The fine particle pollutants from wood burning are so small that they infiltrate even the most well-insulated and weather-stripped homes (closing my doors and windows does not protect me).  Most of the harmful pollutants from wood burning don’t rise. They hang around at ground level for up to ten days.  If you can smell wood smoke, you’re breathing it!

 

The neighbors smoke is affecting my life style, my health, and peaceful enjoyment of my property.  I should not have to beg to breathe smoke free air.  So, when does smoke become a health hazard or nuisance to an adjoining neighbor?   Do I have ANY rights, and how do I protect my rights if so?  Do I have any other recourse or should I file a lawsuit against the neighbor or against the city for not protecting my rights?  If a law suit is filed,  should it be a civil or personal injury lawsuit? 

 

PLEASE HELP!

 

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Suing the city for what the city can't or won't do is a fool's errand.

 

You sue the neighbor.

 

It's called a "private nuisance" lawsuit. You hire a lawyer and you file it.

 

The only thing that will stop the neighbor is money coming out of his pocket. Unfortunately, it means money coming out of your pocket to get there.

 

Or, you sell your property and go elsewhere, which is what I had to do when my low life nuisance neighbors got the best of me many years ago.

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Thank you for your input. 

 

The city could do something about it by changing the code (I had already spoken with the city attorney's office) they changed it for the beach area, no fires allowed, but that doesn't included backyards.  I'll have to find out exactly why that measure was passed, there are conflicting stories.  I'm not sure if it was because the condo and homeowners directly across from the beach were complaining about the smoke or if it was because the beach is owned by the City and a fire on the beach could create a public safety issue.  It could be that the first issue prompted the second issue.

 

But to be clear, for those that get very defensive about their fire pits, I'm not asking for a ban of fire pits and such, I just want them to be controlled (type of apparatus, wood, and smoke emitted) and most importantly, one department that is able to enforce those controls.  Why have a code that's not enforceable, that just makes no sense to me.  Burning pallets and construction materials?  Really?  I certainly don't care to be breathing toxic fumes. 

 

I will find an attorney and go about filing a nuisance lawsuit before I give up my home. 

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