Puslinch fire chief: “˜zero tolerance”™ for illegal burning in township

Puslinch Fire Chief Steven Goode wants to get the message out that open air burning without fire permits will be costly.

In his March 16 report to council, Goode said “this winter has been exceptionally warmer than in previous years and people are itching to start burning their brush.”

The mild winter and lack of snow has affected the volume of run-off from melting snow. This has a negative impact not only for farmers’ growing season but it also leaves rural areas much drier and susceptible to fires.

Goode said there were two grass fires in February – “I don’t recall there ever having been grass fires in February” – both of which were the result of “illegal burns.”

One of the fires started with the burning of construction materials, home items and resulted in a two-acre grass fire.

Goode added, “If you are burning, you must also be responsible in order to be safe.”

“I can’t stress this enough. Our residents who don’t have permits or are not following the permit requirements get quite upset when they receive an invoice from the fire department.

“But we have a zero tolerance (on) this.”

Goode said last year the township adopted a zero tolerance policy for open air burning violations in Puslinch. All open air burning requires the purchase of a $20 permit available at the municipal offices.

Goode explained permits are valid for the calendar year during which it is purchased – not one year from the date of purchase.

The permit is subject to guidelines set out in the township’s open air burning bylaw. The cost of burning without a permit starts at over $400 and escalates based on the resources used by the fire department.

There could also be limitations to burning when a smog alert has been issued by Wellington County. And when conditions warrant, a ban can be issued by the fire chief.

Only unpainted wood, organic materials, ground cover and paper products are to be used for burning.

He added residents can contact Puslinch Fire and Rescue Services for any questions about the open air burning bylaw.

Councillor Ken Roth said he met two people recently who believed their burn permits were for a full year from the date of purchase.

“I don’t know how much clearer we can be,” Roth said.

Goode agreed old habits die hard.

Mayor Lever quipped that he too had been out driving and noticed a few people burning on their properties.

“The one person I stopped to check in … did have his permit,” Lever said.

“It was nice to see you, too,” the fire chief said with a  laugh.