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Complaint Over Orchard’s Fires Sad, Selfish (Editorial)

Farms like Lower Saucon’s Bechdolt’s Orchard should be immune from enforcement of local nuisance ordinances that regulate open burning on rare occasions when their crops are threatened by freezing temperatures.

Est. Read Time: 2 mins

Most of us have heard the expression, “no farms, no food.” But for Bechdolt Orchards in Lower Saucon Township Tuesday night, that expression might as well have been–literally–“no flames, no food.”

Controlled fires burn in between rows of budding fruit trees at Bechdolt's Orchard, before Lower Saucon Township Police forced the farm to extinguish them Tuesday night.

Controlled fires burn in between rows of budding fruit trees at Bechdolt’s Orchard, before Lower Saucon Township Police forced the farm to extinguish them Tuesday night.

Along with other area growers–like Kempton’s Scholl Orchards–the historic farm along Rt. 412 turned to the ancient practice of lighting small fires between the rows of its budding fruit trees to help protect its crop from a potential hard freeze; a practice The Morning Call noted is not as common as it once was, due to encroachment of neighbors and “less than enthusiastic” local fire departments.

That effort was foiled, it was reported on Bechdolt’s Facebook page, when a neighbor called township police to complain about the burning at around 3:15 a.m.

Police forced the orchard to extinguish its monitored fires–presumably because they determined they violated the township’s nuisance ordinance, which regulates open burning.

“All this hard work for nothing…,” Bechdolt’s posted on Facebook. “The hard part is that we have to sit here watching our fires smolder out while our blossoms are turning brown from the cold.”

Since that news was shared, there’s been an outpouring of sadness–and anger–over the fact that a neighbor’s complaint may well have jeopardized the livelihood of farm owners who grow fruit to feed hundreds if not thousands of area families.

And rightfully so.

For starters, Lower Saucon Township is historically a rural, farming community. To tell a farmer he can’t responsibly use a time-tested technique to protect his investment is to turn our backs on our own heritage.

“What’s wrong with people?” asked one Facebook user on a post on this author’s personal Facebook page.

“They’ll be the ones complaining this summer that produce is too expensive,” wrote another local resident on Facebook. “I am soooo over these crybabies.”

Pennsylvania’s elected officials should also be called to account for not enacting any protections that would grant farms like Bechdolt’s a legal reprieve on rare occasions like Tuesday night, when a pattern of unseasonably warm temperatures abruptly changed and threatened an entire season’s crop. As a state that calls itself a breadbasket, there should be consideration for farmers who need to fight frost with fire before the noses of neighbors “nuisanced” by the temporary smell of smoke.

“The inconsiderate people might have destroyed a few people’s livelihoods,” a reader wrote.

It is a sad sign of the times that such selfishness exists.


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About the author

Josh Popichak

Josh Popichak is the owner, publisher and editor of Saucon Source. A Lehigh Valley native, he's covered local news since 2005 and previously worked for Berks-Mont News and AOL/Patch. Contact him at

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