Yesterday I was near killed while in my home in the country, and it was not a crime. I live southwest of Alamosa and yesterday during dinner my home filled with smoke. Since I have COPD and am on full time oxygen this immediately became life threatening. I looked out a window and my neighbor was burning his ditches just feet from my home. The wind was blowing hard and the smoke engulfed my home while embers went onto my lawn. I grabbed my portable oxygen, got in my truck and raced for clean air. A day later writing this I am still having some lung congestion and discomfort.
When I confronted my ditch burning neighbor he bluntly told me that he can burn anywhere on his property whenever he wants, has no control over the wind and thus it is my personal problem. Later in talking to a county sheriff who backed my neighbor’s position I wondered if it would be the same if I fired off my rifle from my own property and the bullets went through the neighbor’s home. Of course that would be a crime, but smoking me to death is not a crime.
Common courtesy would suggest that warning neighbors in the known smoke area would have been good. I have two neighbors with small children. Their homes were also engulfed with smoke for hours. Since my COPD was caused from second hand smoke in my childhood home of chain smoking parents and their friends, I now worry now for my neighbor’s children. Tender lungs were damaged even if problems do not show up for decades.
Why do we have farmers doing ditch burning when the wind is high? Why burn at all when weeds can be controlled in more environmentally friendly ways? Why not require farmers to warn neighbors when they are going to smoke them out? Can we set up computer calling of neighbors warning when farmers call in to do a controlled burn? Why am I coughing today and had to avoid my home for hours because of my neighbor’s selfishness? Why are we having run away ‘controlled’ burns and who should pay for these damages?
Ed Lyell, PhD