Amherstburg Fire Department

Variety of issues raised at open burn bylaw meeting

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A number of concerns, issues and ideas were raised as part of a meeting designed to help the public give the town input on a new open burn bylaw.

The first of three public meetings was held last Thursday night and the two-hour meeting saw a diverse range of issues touched on by residents after a 45-minute presentation by Amherstburg fire chief Bruce Montone.

Montone, who made a similar presentation to town council a few weeks earlier, pointed out to the roughly 50 people in attendance that the new look bylaw is merely a proposal thus far and nothing has been adopted by the town.

“It’s very, very important to understand that despite what you may have heard or read, absolutely no decisions have been made,” said Montone. “Pro or con, we want to hear everything you have to say. The bylaw hasn’t been changed and council hasn’t decided if it will change.”

Amherstburg fire chief Bruce Montone goes through his presentation at the Aug. 17 open burn bylaw meeting at the Libro Centre.

Amherstburg fire chief Bruce Montone goes through his presentation at the Aug. 17 open burn bylaw meeting at the Libro Centre.

Agricultural fires are currently permitted as long as two hours notice is given to the fire department and cooking fires are permitted anywhere on devices that are designed for cooking as long as the fire is extinguished as soon as the food is prepared. Campfires at designated camping establishments are also allowed at this stage.

A $25 permit fee to allow people to have camp fires at lots larger than 60-foot by 100-foot is being proposed, with Montone believing that issuing permits would allow the fire department a way to know where fires are happening and to educate people on the safe ways to have fires. A hotline would be set up and permit holders could check to see if burning is allowed that day with the fire department’s Twitter site also to be updated with that information, should the bylaw proceed.

Since February 2016, the Amherstburg Fire Department has had 54 open-air complaint responses at a cost of $12,480 for the department’s response. Those complaints produced 19 invoices, Montone pointed out, for a total of $6,975 in recoverable expenses.

“Just because we respond doesn’t mean we’re going to recover the costs,” he said.

Residents’ questions varied with Del Oxford asking about manpower. Oxford wondered that if there is only one on duty fire officer, how would that officer keep up if numerous complaints come in. He estimated it would take the officer one hour per call.

“If you create a bylaw that can’t be enforced, it’s useless,” said Oxford.

Montone said the bylaw will be able to be enforced, stating there are numerous other officers including himself that could be called in.

Oxford also suggested a higher cost for a permit in the beginning, as that is when the bulk of the work for fire officials would take place.

Tim Brown believed the town should “scrap” the permit fee, educate the public and enforce the bylaw. He said the permit system is not going to pay for itself anyway. Jim Kennedy added that a lot of firefighters sometimes show up for minor calls.

“It’s embarrassing to see two fire trucks and ten firefighters show up for a barbecue fire,” he said. “If you have a problem with someone building fires, you ask them not to do it.”

Ken Mansell asks a question during the Aug. 17 open burn bylaw public meeting at the Libro Centre.

Ken Mansell asks a question during the Aug. 17 open burn bylaw public meeting at the Libro Centre.

Richard Campbell said he has had problems with neighbours having fires, noting he has told a neighbour about his wife having issues with smoke. Campbell called for the bylaw to be strengthened and not just pertain to smoke entering a home, but entering onto another person’s property. He also called for stronger alcohol provisions, as he has noticed fires get bigger the more someone drinks.

Patricia Emond suggested a door-to-door education campaign, noting she too has had issues with neighbours burning. Ken Mansell asked how the $25 fee was arrived at, with Montone stating the fire department canvassed other municipalities for their costs and arrived at what they thought was a fair amount to recover at least a portion of the costs. If costs are too high, Montone added, it would defeat the purpose as people would avoid getting a permit.

Others called for public education campaigns as well, but Bill Gin didn’t see added value in the permit program. He believed the permit process to be a burden, and believed the application asks for a lot of information and was intrusive.

“The information could fall into the wrong hands,” he added.

Former firefighter Dave Wharram questioned whether there would be liability if a station 2 officer was out on an open burn call in another area while a medical call came in and also was also wondering if complacency could be an issue. On the latter, he said people could dismiss a possible structure fire as just a neighbour burning in the back yard.

Larry Amlin added concerns over cost, as a fire prevention officer would have to go all over the town on this subject while also having to do their other duties. He wondered if that would lead to more staff, but Montone said there may be “a one-time surge in the beginning” based on what he’s seen in other municipalities but didn’t envision bringing in any other new staff.

The second public meeting is at fire station 2 (the former Anderdon fire hall) Sept. 12 at 7 p.m. The third public meeting will be Sept. 26 at station 3 in the former Malden Township. Montone said those meetings would follow a similar format as the first one.

Proposed open burn bylaw to be discussed at public meetings

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Town council got a sneak peek at the proposed new open burn bylaw with the public to get their own look at it at three future public meetings.

At a special council meeting held Monday night, fire chief Bruce Montone made a presentation that he plans on also giving at the three future public meetings. Town council, after discussing procedural issues regarding tabling of the bylaw, did just that and will have its own debate following the three meetings.

Montone pointed out the current open air burning bylaw – Bylaw 1998-91 – restricts open burns to where farming is conducted or in established camping facilities with wood, sticks and brush the only things allowed to be burned. Land debris burning is confined to logs, stumps and limbs with setbacks being 250 feet from a public road or 500 feet from an occupied structure.

A best practices review for a revised open air bylaw saw the Amherstburg Fire Department model it after a Municipal Code of Practice for open air burning in Ontario, the Forest Fire Prevention Act and other municipalities in Essex County, Chatham-Kent, Ottawa, Hamilton and Brandon, Manitoba.

“All municipalities (in Essex County) except Amherstburg have permissible bylaws of varying degrees,” said Montone, adding Windsor uses the Ontario Fire Code as its guide.

Montone acknowledged that smoke is unhealthy and pollutes the air as well as having nuisance and environmental impacts. By updating and enforcing a new bylaw, he said it creates opportunities to educate the public.

Since February 2016, the Amherstburg Fire Department has had 54 open air complaint responses at a cost of $12,480 for the department’s response. Those complaints produced 19 invoices, Montone added, for a total of $6,975 in recoverable expenses.

Amherstburg fire chief Bruce Montone discusses the proposed new open air burning bylaw at a special meeting of council July 31.

Amherstburg fire chief Bruce Montone discusses the proposed new open air burning bylaw at a special meeting of council July 31.

Under a proposed new bylaw, an annual permit could be obtained by the resident with those people asked to call a number the day of a fire to ensure conditions are proper in which to have one. The restricted area would remain similar in some ways, with Montone proposing a 60-foot by 100-foot lot or smaller be restricted from having open burns due to difficulty in having ample space away from houses, sheds or other structures.

“This starting point for restricted areas is extremely similar to where the restrictions exist,” said Montone, as he showed town maps where built-up areas have restrictions.

The fire chief also explained what is defined as a cooking fire, noting it has to be on a device specifically designed for cooking with the fire to be extinguished once the food is cooked.

“Cooking fires are not ones where you put a marshmallow or a wiener on a stick,” said Montone.

Site visits would occur when warranted and Montone said complaints need to be called in if a person wants the fire department to act on them.

“We receive complaints from citizens or other agencies but we need to receive the complaints in order for us to act,” he said, with other agencies including police and town officials.

Fees for those found in non-compliance with the bylaw can range from $225 for a visit from a responding officer. Should the call require fewer than six firefighters, the fee would be $450 and if it is six or more, the fee increases to $900.

The restricted zones are depicted as they are currently and what they would be under the proposed new open air burning bylaw.

The restricted zones are depicted as they are currently and what they would be under the proposed new open air burning bylaw.

“Those fees are significant,” said Montone.

The public meetings will be Aug. 17 at the Libro Centre, Sept. 12 at fire station #2 and Sept. 26 at fire station #3. All meetings will be at 7 p.m.

There will also be a survey on the town’s website from Aug. 3-Sept. 27. (UPDATE – The link to the survey can be found here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/XVHHBTD).

“It’s going to be (the public’s) opportunity to tell us what they really think,” said Montone.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said the town continues to review its bylaws and the issue arose due to that.

“It’s open for discussion,” he said.

DiCarlo believes the town has been open and transparent in the last few years and that is continuing by having the three meetings. He said he hopes the public utilizes the opportunities, adding he has already heard from people on both sides of the issue.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — The locations of the Sept. 12 and Sept. 26 public meetings were listed incorrectly in the Aug. 2 print issue and were posted incorrectly on this website. They have now been corrected in the story above. The Sept. 12 public  meeting is at station #2 and the Sept. 26 meeting is at station #3. Apologies for this error.)

Council moving forward with open air burning bylaw

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A decision is still weeks away as to whether open air burns will be permitted in Amherstburg, but the town is moving forward in the process.

Town council authorized administration to move forward with an open air fire bylaw and permit process for council’s consideration at a later date with public consultation meetings to be set up to allow residents to speak to it.

Councillor Rick Fryer pointed out he was the one who brought the issue forward, noting that some residents may want to have a bonfire with their children. He said he has heard a lot of comments and innuendo from residents but said he understands both sides of the argument including the argument against smoke and fumes.

“I’ve had blood clots in my lungs and I understand the health issues,” said Fryer. “I do understand the flipside too. It’s not something I thought of willy nilly.”

Fryer said the idea would be to call a hotline and see if conditions were right to have a fire, though added there is a difference between a fire in a rural area and a small bonfire in urban areas.

According to Fryer, about 70 per cent of people he has heard from are “excited” for the possibility of it being easier to have a bonfire while 30 per cent have health issues they are concerned with.

“I feel for them,” he said of the latter.

The bylaw will be “complicated” and will have to come back to council after a public consultation process, he added.

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In a report from fire chief Bruce Montone, he said “open air burning and campfires are currently taking place in all (urban, sub-urban and rural) areas of the Town of Amherstburg. The current situation where campfires are not permitted anywhere is resulting in illegal burns taking place in spring, summer and fall with no appropriate controls in place. Enforcement of the current bylaw is not manageable with current resources. Fire services is limited to responding to complaints with very little information often resulting in full station responses. In the past three years fire services has responded to 133 open burn calls at a cost to ratepayers of approximately $40,000.”

Montone added in his report that “the proposed by-law establishes a set of comprehensive maps that define the regulated areas for open air fires. The proposed harmonized by-law continues to permit open air fires where such burning can be carried out safely and provides for control over open air fires. The intent of existing regulations will be maintained within the proposed bylaw. To address changes in population density and fire safety conditions however, certain geographical areas will not be permitted to have open air fires.”

Montone said that a processing fee of $25 for an annual open air fire permit and $75 specific event open air fire permit respectively are proposed for the processing of the permits but told council those were suggestions based on information gathered from other Essex County municipalities. He said they are trying to “strike a balance” between customer service, recreation and public safety.

Councillor Joan Courtney said the intention was not for Amherstburg council to pass a new bylaw quickly and said she wants to hear from the public.

“I understand both sides,” said Courtney.

Councillor Diane Pouget questioned no fines after responding to 133 calls. She added she is “adamantly opposed” to moving forward with the process, believing council should have just received Montone’s report and gone no further. There are many toxins that are emitted during such burns and people’s health could be negatively impacted.

“Council was very concerned about smoking and second hand smoke and eliminated all smoking near municipal buildings and parks,” she said, “yet we’re thinking of allowing open air burns?”

Pouget was particularly concerned about burns in urban areas, noting rural landowners have to have burns as part of their farming operations.

“They have a right to burn because it is part of their agricultural needs,” she said.

Montone told town council that all Essex County municipalities except Amherstburg currently have “permissive systems” with Fryer adding “we’re the only community in Essex County that doesn’t allow this.”

Council moved forward thanks to a 5-1 vote, with Pouget being the vote in opposition. Councillor Jason Lavigne was not in attendance.

Small fire on McCurdy Dr. causes roughly $3,000 damage

 

 

A fire on McCurdy Dr. late Monday afternoon caused minimal damage, according to reports from the Amherstburg Fire Department.

Fire crews were called to a home in the 200 block of McCurdy Dr. The Amherstburg Fire Department states that a smoke alarm alerted owner of the home to the fire.

The fire department states the owner extinguished the fire prior the arrival of firefighters. The cause is under investigation.

The Amherstburg Fire Department tweeted that the fire in 200 block of McCurdy started in basement.

“Quick action by owner prevented greater damage,” it was stated.

Damage estimates are $1,000 to the home and $2,000 to contents.

Amherstburg firefighters deal with pair of rural blazes

 

By Ron Giofu

Amherstburg firefighters dealt with a pair of rural fires last Thursday night, neither of which caused any injuries.

A small chicken coop and a machine shed caught fire in the area of Texas Road, east of Concession 5 North, said assistant deputy chief Ron Meloche. There is no official cause, though Meloche indicated it appears there was grass burning in the area. He said a backhoe was called in to tear down the structure, as it was not safe for the firefighters to enter.

A damage estimate was pegged at around $5,000.

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Later in the evening, fire crews were called to a farm on County Road 20 near Malden Centre. Meloche said an “older farm tractor” backfired and caught fire. The door on a nearby barn was open and that, combined with a quick response from the Amherstburg Fire Department, prevented the fire spreading from the tractor.

Meloche credited firefighters for knocking that fire down quickly and preventing it from spreading to nearby structures.

Damage in the latter fire was estimated at approximately $3,000. Meloche estimated the age of the tractor at between 50-60-years-old.

Firefighters from stations two and three attended both blazes, Meloche added.