June 25, 2008 · Updated 9:37 PM
"Time to give up those burn barrelsAnti-gun control slogans work perfectly well with another time-honored possession of many Whidbey Island residents. Such as:They can have my burn barrel when they pry my cold, dead, fingers from around it.When burn barrels are outlawed, only outlaws will have burn barrels.People are possessive of their burn barrels. After all, they're a family tradition, and one steel 55-gallon drum can turn tons of refuse into smoke and ashes over the years. Kids grow up with burn barrels, which productively satisfy the pyromania of many boys.So when The Record printed a story May 10 reporting that burn barrels are now against the law, we received several calls from alarmed owners of burn barrels. They couldn't believe the news, and wanted to make sure we got it right. After all, doesn't the U.S. Constitution mention somewhere that we have an inalienable right to burn barrels? Sorry, but the protection afforded to guns does not encompass burn barrels. Burn barrels are now officially banned by the state Department of Ecology. And while we can mourn the passing of one more rural tradition, the fact remains that times change and burn barrels are rightly a thing of the past.South Whidbey isn't as rural as it once was. Many houses are tightly grouped and burn barrels give off a noxious smoke, especially since the burn barrel fire traditionally consumes everything from banana peels to old rubber girdles. And they're more of a fire danger than they once were -- sparks are likely to land on a nearby house rather than a damp pasture.The Department of Ecology points out that particulates from burn barrel fires are a danger to human health, as well as to the atmosphere we all breathe. They also make bad neighbors -- a cloud of smelly smoke emanating from a single back yard does not make for good community relations.So follow the law, and don't burn anything but natural materials and then only if you have a fire permit. It will make South Whidbey a cleaner, healthier, safer place to live. Perhaps the South Whidbey Historical Society Museum can find a place outside to display a typical burn barrel. After all, it's part of our history, and many people will miss it.Cops' liquor sting results disturbingSouth Whidbey purveyors of alcohol obviously have to be more careful in checking the age of their customers.Last month, the state Liquor Control Board, aided by the Island County Sheriff's Office and Langley Police Department, conducted a sting in which a 19-year-old male with his own accurate ID entered eight liquor-selling establishments. Disturbingly, all eight sold alcohol to the young man. This comes on the heels of another, smaller sting earlier in the year that yielded similar results.No doubt each purveyor has its own side to the story, but the fact is there is no excuse for not checking the age of customers wishing to purchase alcohol. At some mainland stores, signs state that anyone who looks younger than 35 will be carded. At the old Kingdome, and perhaps at Safeco Field, they card everyone, even senior citizens. This caution seems reasonable at a time when the public is so concerned about underage drinking, and when a store could lose its valuable liquor license for violating the law.With spring party season now in progress, it is paramount that teens' access to alcohol be severely limited. Please, merchants, pay attention when somebody wants to buy booze. The community will appreciate your efforts."