A longstanding dispute about backyard grilling has a St. Petersburg, Florida, neighborhood up in smoke. Cell phone video from last week captures a mundane confrontation between brothers Dwayne and Chris Matt, and Pinellas County environmental inspector Joe Graham, who visited their home to address a recent complaint about smoke and odor coming from their barbecue.
Graham asks the men to try to contain the smoke from their grill to their yard, per a county ordinance he reads to them. Although barbecuing is legal, county ordinances prohibit air pollution. This video shows that the Matts are clearly fed up. They've received more than a dozen complaints about the smoke, and all but one of them came from the same neighbor. "Everybody else cooks out around here, and nobody harasses them," Chris Matt tells Graham. He said he and his brother had lived in the area for years without a complaint until three years ago, when a new neighbor moved in.
That neighbor, Sue Godfirnon, has filed 14 complaints against the Matts since September 2014, according to Bay News 9. She is also suing them, claiming that the smoke from the grill is poisoning her, according to Tampa Bay ABC affiliate WFTS. "This smoke permeates my house, and causes me to have health problems, including chest pains and asthma attacks," Godfirnon wrote in a February email to the county. "I am virtually a prisoner in my own home." She also provided a photo of a carbon monoxide detector in her home that shows a reading of 170 parts per million, a concentration that can cause headaches, fatigue and nausea, according to the Tampa Bay Times. A security camera on Godfirnon's house shows smoke billowing from the Matts' grill across the street, according to WFTS.
An antigovernment blog picked up on the footage and claimed it's the county that's cooking up trouble by trying to prohibit the Matts from grilling. That's not the case. "Backyard barbecue grilling in Pinellas County is not banned. It is not illegal. It is absolutely legal," the county's air quality control manager, Ajaya Satyal, told WFLA.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, the county hasn't issued a citation against the homeowners, only provided them with an "advisory letter" that lists guidelines and potential penalties for causing pollution or excessive odors. The brothers received one citation from the city of St. Petersburg last year for having a commercial grill in a residential neighborhood.
Chris Matt told Bay News 9 they don't know their neighbor personally. "One day maybe [I'll] cook for her," Dwayne Matt told WFTS. "I would just like her to see what all the madness is about. We're very good cooks."
HERE ARE THE VIDEOS. FIRST IS THE BROTHERS BEING CONFRONTED, SECOND IS THE SMOKE GOING IN TO SUE'S HOUSE:
Holy shit, this story. I was looking for a place to cut it off and shorten it for the blog but I just couldn't do it. Every piece of this thing is incredible. We're talking longstanding feuds, potential poisoning plots, what appears to be great BBQ, adult onset asthma, private detectives, anti-government groups and conspiracy theories, and Florida. You name it, this story has it. Let's do our best to break it down.
To start with, let's understand this feud: from what I gathered, you've got the Matt brothers just grilling up a literal storm seemingly each and every day. These guys take their BBQ very seriously, maybe too seriously as the smoke and fumes from their grilling exploits have apparently worked their way across the street and in to the fragile lungs of their elderly neighbor, Sue Godfirdon. So much so, in fact, that she's developed asthma at this late stage in her life. After the police balk at the opportunity to make an arrest, she sends an environmental inspector to inform the brothers that they are playing with fire (nailed it) and that if they can't control their smoke they will face legal action. The boys say "hey, what's this bitches problem? We cook no more than the average brothers-who-still-live-together-in-their-30s*, tell that hag to back off and try a rib for once." And that's pretty much where we stand with the feud.
Then out of NOWHERE, an anti-government group gets involved and uses the footage of the smoke billowing in to Sue's home as proof that the city (I guess) is creating extra smoke in an attempt to vilify the Matt brothers as part of a crackdown on backyard BBQ in general. And you know what? I'm with them.
Sure, the Matt brothers could BBQ less, every day may be a bit much, but they're just boys having some grilling fun, and I don't care how much you're cooking, that much smoke is an outrageous amount to travel across a street and in to a home. And even if it did, the whole idea that it's raising the carbon monoxide levels to a dangerous amount also seems fishy. Is it possible (probable) that Sue's house has a carbon monoxide problem that she doesn't know about? Sure, but then again this is Florida politics we're talking about here. It's 100% feasible that the biggest concern in this corrupt city is backyard BBQ fumes, and what better way than to deter potential grillers than by framing the most famous BBQ Brothers in the whole damn town? Pretty sure it all adds up, just gotta hope the truth comes out thanks to the work of this mysterious group. Also, if this isn't a movie by next summer then somebody (me) is a huge dumb dumb for missing out on this goldmine of a script.
P.S. Guess how many times I misspelled fued. Dammit.
* to be fair, in that demographic they are pretty much on par for how much BBQing they do.