Municipal officials are hoping an updated burn permit bylaw will provide a more practical way to deal with enforcement of open air burning regulations.
“With the present bylaw, the only way to recover costs is to dispatch one of our stations (with as many as 25 firefighters), send one or more trucks out and bill the property owner as per the fee schedule. This is expensive to the property owner as well as the town,” explained bylaw enforcement officer Cam Forbes in a report to council on June 2.
“It also causes many volunteers to lose time at work.”
With a schedule of set fines, Forbes suggested the bylaw can be enforced by issuing a ticket with fines that will more than cover costs and deter people from burning illegally.
The report notes the bylaw was last changed in 2010 to limit the size of burn piles and to restrict the time of day fires can be set. With the present by-law residents can be charged $410 per hour, per truck under the fee schedule for an illegal burn if the fire department is paged out.
Set fines under the new bylaw range from $100 to $300.
Fire Chief Chris Harrow noted staff work to resolve issues without laying a charge, but if not, a charge can be easily laid once the set fines are approved. The bylaw containing set fines must still be approved by the Ministry of the Attorney General before staff can lay charges.
The bylaw approved by council at the meeting includes:
– a list of what can (wood, organic materials and paper) and cannot be burned (paint, solvents, rubber, plastics, shingles, etc., or any materials that violate Ministry of Environment regulations);
– a change in the time frame during which burning is allowed (no open air burning before sunrise or after sunset);
– a change to the definition of owner, who must be 18 years or older to light or maintain a fire;
– a restriction to the use of barbecues on balconies in multi-unit residences;
– a restriction on the use of burn barrels in the urban areas; and
– the ability for the town to seek restitution for other costs incurred when extinguishing an illegal burn (hi-hoe rental etc.).
Forbes said the small (two by two feet) backyard fires for cooking purposes will still be allowed, providing they are supervised until extinguished and a garden hose is available nearby.