Wednesday , 22 May 2019
No wiggle room for backyard fires

No wiggle room for backyard fires

By Bob Bruton, Barrie Examiner

Chimineas are back on Barrie’s front-burner.

Councillors agreed Monday to a zero-tolerance enforcement policy, 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.

“It’s very important to have some recourse, and that it have some teeth,” said Coun. Michael Prowse. “It’s an effective compromise.”

Coun. Barry Ward said the complaints would have to be specific.

“Like the smoke is blowing in your window,” he said. “That’s a complaint.”

This policy would replace a motion councillors were to consider for a total ban on outdoor solid fuel-burning appliances, or chimineas, beginning Jan. 1, 2015.

Permits would not have been issued past Oct. 1, 2014, although anyone with a permit issued up to and including that date would have been allowed to burn until the ban became law.

“Whatever we do, people will be unhappy. It’s a very polarizing issue,” said Coun. Doug Shipley. “Maybe we can get people (neighbours) discussing this a little more, being more civil.”

Only Couns. Bonnie Ainsworth and John Brassard voted against the zero-tolerance policy, as opposed to a ban.

“I don’t believe an urban setting is the right place for these devices,” Brassard said, noting there is no way to control smoke blown by wind. “The majority of people don’t complain, they suffer in silence.”

Brassard and Ainsworth both noted there are alternatives, such as gas and propane burning devices.

Ainsworth also said it is a waste of firefighting resources.

“I’d like someone to tell me how this can be enforced without sending a pumper crew over to a house, with four firefighters,” she said.

But Prowse said the fees charged for chimineas offset any firefighting costs.

“And we are not paying (more) to send four firefighters on a call,” said Coun. Arif Khan. “These firefighters are already on the clock.”

Barrie Fire Chief John Lynn said the zero-tolerance policy will result in more burning calls to his department.

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 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 what’s 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.

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.

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.

bob.bruton@sunmedia.ca

For the full article, click here.

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