So, I decided to reclaim my back yard a little, and things just went downhill from there. Nothing disastrous, just a pain in the butt.
Now, we have this part of my yard where nothing grows. I'm not clear why (you know, except for that part about not watering it or seeding it or anything...), but it had dead grass, a couple of dead trees, some tumbleweeds, and general natural detritus lying around. And a lot of dog turds, because we ignored it, knowing that it would be a pain to get around in and clean up. Just kind of a mess, and I wanted to take care of it.
So I raked and I shoveled and I got it all piled up, and it seemed like a hell of a lot of stuff to try bagging and toting to the dump, particularly since I don't own a truck. And I figured, why not burn the stuff?
Now, I haven't lived in Albuquerque my whole life, so I wasn't clear on the requirements. I do know that some radio stations gets these "no burn days" announcements, so I knew that there was some kind of regulation on it. And the week before last, figuring that I needed a permit, I had gone hunting for one.
I found two. One of them seemed to be primarily for big monster events. and neither one seemed quite right. So I went looking for the rules. Couldn't find them. I called one of the numbers listed on one of the forms and left a message, but he never called me back.
Finally, last Sunday, I went to the Fire Department to ask just what the deal was - we have a substation just about a minute and a half away. Of course, as I pulled up to the light within site of them, they went racing off, lights flashing and sirens wailing. And when they head out, they don't leave anybody behind. They lock the place up tight and they're gone. And they could be gone for hours.
I could have given up at that point, but I'm stubborn. There's other fire stations around. So I went to one I knew about, a little farther away, at the corner of Menaul Blvd and Eubank Blvd. (That's the only identifier I'll be giving of our public servants in the course of this little story - I'm not trying to get anybody in trouble, I'm just venting.)
And once I found a firefighter, I asked what the rules were. He explained that a permit wasn't required (which I didn't expect), agreed that leaves, sticks and branches were OK, it had to be away from any flammable structures, had to have a hose, and (here's the kicker) to find out what the "no burn days" are, I could either go to the City of Albuquerque website, or call 3-1-1 (the Albuquerque government information line).
And let me be clear here - he specifically mentioned those two information sources.
It all sounded clean and civilized to me, but it was getting later in the afternoon, so I put it off for this morning. When it was overcast, with a prediction for scattered showers today (seemed like a bonus, really) and humidity of 39% (which may sound like a drought to somebody in, say, Florida, but it's huge around here).
And about ten thirty, I called 3-1-1, to discover that they had limited services, mostly pre-recorded, on Sunday (and only from ten to six, for that matter).
Undaunted, I went to the website, where I poke around until I found this, under "click here for today's No Burn status."
So I'm feeling pretty good about it. I'm monitoring the fire, I've got rakes, shovels, the hose, an actual fire extinguisher, a metal rod I can use to bring the unburned stuff in the middle up. And it's just about out when a fire truck pulls up in front of my house to tell me that I had to put it out.
I didn't get a citation, so pretty much no harm, no foul. But they were pretty clear that it had to be put out.
Not really a problem. Like I said, it was pretty much done. (It had been a good-sized pile, but more on that in a second.) But these guys tell me you have to call 768-BURN (which the other firefighter didn't even mention), and that today was a no-burn day. I explained the situation, and they contradicted themselves at a couple of points (regarding what you can burn, "you can only burn tumbleweeds" became "weeds and grass" became "leaves" at various times). But I didn't argue, and I put out the smoldering embers.
So, a couple of points.
One - shouldn't the website and the phone line match?
Two - wouldn't it be nice if they had some webpage to explain the rules?
Three - should I be angry that none of the firefighters seem to agree what the rules are?
And (most importantly) four - remember how I said it was a good-sized pile? Should I be upset that the fire truck (that is, as I also said, only 90 seconds away) took an hour and a half to come tell me that I was doing wrong?