By Bob Bruton, Barrie Examiner
Chimineas, or outdoor solid fuel burning appliances, are OK in Barrie backyards.
But city council did approve a zero-tolerance enforcement policy this week, so that all such fires would be ordered extinguished upon complaint. A second complaint at the same address within 24 hours can result in a fine. A copy of this policy would be provided to anyone receiving an outdoor burning permit.
“That means, after a number of trips back and forth, we have decided not to ban backyard fire places,” said Mayor Jeff Lehman, “but to enforce the bylaw more stringently.”
Council held a recorded vote on the zero-tolerance enforcement policy of the burning bylaw.
Lehman and Couns. Lynn Strachan, Doug Shipley, Barry Ward, Peter Silveira, Michael Prowse, Arif Khan, Brian Jackson and Alex Nuttall voted in favour.
Only Couns. Bonnie Ainsworth and John Brassard voted against the motion, which was not discussed Monday.
Brassard and Ainsworth have both noted there are alternatives, such as gas and propane burning devices, to the chimineas. Ainsworth has also said it’s a waste of firefighting resources.
But Prowse has said the permit fees charged for chimineas offset any firefighting costs.
Barrie Fire Chief John Lynn has said the zero-tolerance policy will result in more burning calls to his department.
Lynn has said the average complaint probably consumes about an hour of time for the four firefighters who attend each call, in a truck. He said the fire department bills $410 an hour. Should there be an emergency, these firefighters are also not in the best place to respond to another call.
A city bylaw allows chimineas, with a $10 permit, for property owners or tenants with the owner’s consent. But it prohibits their use between midnight and 8 a.m., with a $250 set fine for infractions.
Councillors were to consider a total ban last fall — effective Jan. 1, 2014 — but the motion never made it onto the council floor.
Instead of confirming the current regulations on chimineas council sent the matter back to its community services committee for further review. The matter was reviewed during a February meeting.
Lynn has supported the ban, saying fire department resources and people’s health are most important. His department received 212 complaints about the burning appliances between January and September last year.
The city issued 2,689 permits during the first nine months of 2012. There were 26 fire appliance tickets issued and six permits were revoked.
The fire chief has cited Environment Canada about the dangers of smoke and gases from burning wood; they contain sulphur, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and carcinogenic compounds.
He’s also cited a University of Washington study, Health Effects of Wood Smoke, that shows smoke wood particles are too small to be filtered by the nose and upper respiratory system – so they can end up in the lungs. Closed doors and windows don’t stop these particles from seeping into homes either. Wood smoke also worsens existing conditions, such as asthma and emphysema.
About three years ago, the fire department asked for a total ban on the devices. The previous council turned it down.
In 2007, city council passed a bylaw to regulate the burning appliances and monitor complaints for two years. They were, at the time, exempt from the bylaws which regulated the setting of open fires.
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