Ban Considered on Outdoor Wood Furnaces in Sturgeon Bay

Sturgeon Bay’s Community Protection and Services Committee doesn’t want to allow outdoor wood furnaces used to heat homes within city limits.

The committee backed a motion Dec. 7 to direct City Attorney Jim Kalny to draft an ordinance explicitly banning those types of heaters, which pipe in heat in the form of hot water to houses and resemble a small outdoor shed or shanty with a wood-burning furnace and chimney.

Fire Chief Tim Dietman, who made the recommendation, said the current city code doesn’t address their use.

“We have nothing there [in the city code related to outdoor wood-burning furnaces], so ultimately, right now someone could just slap one of these things in and basically do what they want because we have nothing saying yes or no,” he said.

Dietman said the fire department received a request about being able to install one of those furnaces.

“We contemplated it back and forth, and I think probably at this point the easiest thing is that we just go ahead and create an ordinance that prohibits the use of all outdoor wood-fired furnaces,” he said.

Dietman said smoke produced by outdoor wood-burning furnaces is the main reason to not allow them in the city.

“The biggest problem is smoke, even though they keep refining these, and they basically reburn the smoke, and it cleans it up,” he said. “They [also] become a nuisance with wood piles.”

Dietman said they looked at the county’s ordinance on wood-burning furnaces, which states an outdoor wood-burning furnace must be located “at least 100 feet from the nearest building which is not on the same property as the outdoor wood-fired furnace.” He said that “99% of people in the city” would not have the property to meet those setback requirements.

In addition, the property owner or occupant is also required to obtain a one-time permit from the fire chief, town chair, or his or her designee before using an outdoor wood-burning furnace.

The county ordinance also requires the chimney of an outdoor wood-burning furnace to extend “at least as high above the ground surface as the height of the roof of the building which it serves,” though a lower height may be approved on a case-by-case basis.

If the city would model the county ordinance, Dietman said that could result in a chimney becoming “some crazy, unsightly thing in certain neighborhoods.”

Dietman said other communities that have prohibited outdoor furnaces have used simplified language in their municipal codes stating those heaters are banned.

To expedite a ban on outdoor wood-burning furnaces taking effect in the city, the committee’s motion directs having an ordinance put together by city staff to go directly to the Common Council for a vote without being referred back to the committee.