Open burning still a scourge in Mesa County in 2022

It’s a beautiful spring day in Mesa County, and once again the time of year when palls of thick smoke from open burning envelope entire neighborhoods, turning beautiful, fragrant, warm spring days into days of physical illness, suffering and despair for Grand Valley residents.

With the biggest medical center between Denver and Salt Lake and a wide variety of retirement housing, Grand Junction has long been an attractive area for retirees. But many people who settle here are unaware of the archaic open burning tradition here that exacerbates health problems and can pose an extraordinary health threat to sensitive people with illnesses like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, bronchitis and those who use supplemental oxygen for lung and heart disease.

Respiratory ailments are a leading cause of death in Mesa County.

According to the Mesa County Public Health Community Needs Health Assessment for 2021-2023 (pdf @ Page 175), Mesa County has “nearly double (or more) the rate of death from chronic lower respiratory disease” than the community with the lowest rates. Mesa County also has a starkly higher mortality rate from heart disease than other communities. The Health Assessment states “Mesa County has 20% more cases of heart disease, but 30% more deaths caused by heart disease. This suggests that people suffering from heart disease in Mesa County are somewhat more likely to die of the disease than people in Colorado.” Mesa County also has approximately 20% more lung cancer cases than the state of Colorado as a whole.

Well, no wonder. We need look no further than the archaic practice of open burning to find a likely reason why deaths from heart and lung disease are so prevalent here.

Every year burn seasons send a significant number of Mesa County residents running to doctors’ offices and the Emergency Room, jacking up health care bills and ratcheting up physical misery and further damaging lung function for thousands of them. In a news broadcast on March 16, 2017, KKCO 11 News even said, “Add in an early allergy season and you have a recipe for a breathing disaster.”

Yet we continue to do it every year.

Open burning is a disaster for taxpayers and property as well.

Invariably every year multiple legal open burns get out of control. Putting them out endangers fire responders, takes up substantial taxpayer-funded resources, and keeps fire departments from responding to medical emergencies. Such out of control fires threaten homes, sheds, barns and other structures throughout the county. Between March 1 and March 9 of 2020 alone, Mesa County fire departments responded to 28 preventable brush fires started by open burning. The cost of government-sanctioned open burning to the county’s taxpayers is enormous, and far beyond the mere $25 cost of an open burning permit. People also burn illegal and noxious materials after dark, when they are less likely to get busted for it.

A layer of smoke over the valley from open burning fires on the morning of 3/28/22

The County Health Department banned open burning for awhile in late 2020 into 2021 due to the Coronavirus pandemic, since Covid-19 is a respiratory disease. Banning open burning in 2020-2021 was not just the right thing to do, but a big a step in the right direction culturally for Mesa County. It is a desperately-needed step our area needs to take to bring us into the 21st century. Banning open burning once and for all would result in markedly better health and safety for the entire community, more security for property and far more responsible use of taxpayer funds and emergency response resources.

A dense pall open burning smoke overtakes a Grand Junction neighborhood on an otherwise lovely spring morning on 3/28/22

A pall of open burning smoke hangs heavy over thousands of homes in the Grand Valley on the morning of 3/28/22 as people openly burn their waste



  15 comments for “Open burning still a scourge in Mesa County in 2022

  1. Flew in 3/28, same day as the photos, and the view was shocking. I was very surprised how the smoke could be seen hugging the ground and covering whole neighborhoods.

  2. Aside from the previous babble, and do you really need to publish these idiots?
    Mesa County enforces NO emission regulations like the rest of the state and not one place locally to even check emissions. Therefore the crazy drivers in trucks who spew black smoke from their tail pipes continue to do so freely. There is no more backward and regressive environment for pollution in the state than here. And so many people who need oxygen tanks to survive just don’t get it!

  3. Before we get much further we need to talk to Karen Sjoberg, the one who founded Citizens for Clean Air. I don’t know the status of CCA.

  4. The smoke gets worse across the Grand Valley to the east, so Palisade is the worst place to live and visit despite the peaches. If you live above the Valley, you can easily see the smoke, mostly drifting east and either giving kids asthma or aggravating it in adults. I know lots of people hate change, but there are better techniques to care for land. Some days the smoke covers much of the Valley and reminds me of the notorious Brown Cloud. The more burning, the more likely we will have to have cleaner burning gas and that costs more.

    • Richard, I dont know you, but I’d be interested to know what you think about open burning. I always appreciate good ideas and discussions and hate to see us losing the chance to have good discussions about pros and cons because we get side-tracked

    • “Go Tina”.
      Yup. Right to DOC. You can write her your love notes here:

      Tina “Only Idiots Listen to Me” Peters
      c/o DWCF
      3600 Havana Street
      PO BOX 392005
      Denver, CO. 80239

  5. Two comments….1) Open burning is not allowed in most of the USA. Why here? You should be able to enjoy Palisade peaches without being on oxygen. 2) Tony Heller is not a climate expert by any stretch of anyone’s imagination. He does, however, have a long track record of misrepresenting climate data. Please try again!!!

  6. Two observations….1) There are very, very few areas around the entire country where open burning of farm fields is an accepted practice. There are plenty of alternatives that will allow you to enjoy Palisade peaches without being on oxygen. 2) Tony Heller is an electrical engineer/geologist (not a climate expert by any stretch of anyone’s imagination) who has a long and well documented history of misrepresenting climate data.

  7. They Ranchers and farmers do it every year for their fields and ditches. I myself am a retired person that realize they do it for a reason and am fine with it. I guess I like the food and fruit they produce for us each year. This is just my opinion and when you eat one of those delicious Palisade Peach this year think about why we have them. Thank you farmers and ranchers for your hard work for us.

  8. now you against combustion too?
    let me guess you are climate panicked.

    meanwhile I Celebrate CO2

    Want to read more ?
    start with Tony Heller’s fantastic site;

    realclimatescience dot com

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