Nuisance Burning

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wood-burning-001During the winter months, some residents can be affected by smoke from fireplaces and wood burning appliances. Over the past few years, the City of Davis Natural Resources Commission has actively considered the issue of air quality and wood smoke impacts. As part of this process, there have been multiple discussions with community members and subject-matter experts at both Commission and Davis City Council meetings. In response, the City Council amended the existing nuisance ordinance and specifically declared certain visible smoke to be a prohibited nuisance.

More specifically, the ordinance specifies, the emission into the open air of visible smoke from any residential indoor non-wood pellet-burning appliance or any non EPA-Phase II certified wood burning appliance or fireplace used for home- heating purposes in such manner or in such amounts as to endanger or tend to endanger the health, comfort, safety or welfare of any reasonable person, or to cause unreasonable injury or damage to property or which could cause annoyance or discomfort in the area of the emission, is prohibited.

To explain further, there is a violation of the ordinance when;

  1. The visible smoke emanates from indoor burning; and

  2. The visible smoke is not emanating from a wood-pellet-burning appliance; and

  3. The visible smoke is not emanating from a EPA Phase II appliance or fireplace; and

  4. The visible smoke is in such amount that it –

    1. Endangers or may endanger the health, comfort, or safety of any reasonable person; or

    2. Causes unreasonable injury or damage to property; or

    3. Could cause annoyance or discomfort in the area of the emission.

Under the nuisance ordinance, any person owning, leasing, occupying and/or having charge or possession of any premises or land in Davis may be held responsible for correcting the nuisance. In addition, if they fail to correct the problem, all of the persons allowing the nuisance to continue are subject to administrative fines, and/or criminal fines, and/or civil remedy.

First Steps

If you have a neighbor that produces visible smoke caused by indoor burning, you should first attempt to address the issue with your neighbor personally. This conversation should be polite, even friendly. It can begin with a statement like, “I’m not sure you’re aware…” The person creating the harmful smoke may not recognize that the smoke they produce penetrates your house or causes you harm. Briefly explain the smoke issue, and ask the neighbor to refrain from producing harmful smoke.

You should be aware that not all neighbors are going to respond to your request. If nuisance neighbors don’t change their behavior, you have options. As previously stated, the City of Davis does have a nuisance ordinance that prohibits nuisance wood burning and it is enforced by the Davis Police Department, through Code Enforcement. If the smoke or wood burning is creating a nuisance, you can file a complaint by calling the Code Enforcement Officer at (530) 747-5446. Please call when the smoke is occurring, so the violation can be witnessed by our Code Enforcement Officer. 

Next Steps

For a first reported violation, a Notice of Violation will be issued, which notifies the offender of the ordinance and the need to abate the nuisance. Assuming no further complaints are received, no further action will be taken.

If additional violations occur at the same address within a 12-month period, the City may issue administrative citations. The first citation assesses a $100 penalty, the second violation $200, and any subsequent violations are $500 each.

Additionally, under both California law and the Davis Municipal Code, a person who creates a public nuisance is also subject to arrest and prosecution for a misdemeanor offense and/or civil injunction.

Common steps after an Officer's involvement may include:

  • Making the residents aware of the complaints. Often times person contact abates the problem.

  • Sending a formal warning to the resident, property manager, and/or property owner advising that they must correct the problem.

  • Issuing administrative citations for violations.

  • Asking the District Attorney to enforce state law nuisance provisions.

You may also take private legal action against anyone who creates a nuisance. Remedies include asking a judge to order the nuisance be abated or suing to recover damages for any harm created by the nuisance.

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