Bruce Montone

Amherstburg Fire Department hosts second meeting on proposed open burn bylaw

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A crowd of about 15 people attended Amherstburg Fire Station #2 last Tuesday night for the second of three public meetings on the proposed open burn bylaw.

Amherstburg fire chief Bruce Montone went over his presentation on the proposed bylaw, but quickly reminded residents that no verdict has been rendered as to whether it will be implemented or not.

“Regardless of the rumours, no decisions have been made by council,” said Montone.

Three council members were in attendance last Tuesday night – Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale and Councillor Diane Pouget.

Montone sad the current open burn bylaw allows for burning for agricultural purposes as long as the Amherstburg Fire Department is notified prior to setting the fire. Camp fires at established campgrounds are allowed with cooking fires also permitted as long as it is put out after the food has been prepared.

Materials such as trash, lumber and pallets, treated wood, tires, newspapers and other paper products, yard waste, wire and coated wire, structures, asphalt shingles, plastics, synthetics, heavy oils, paints and household or agricultural chemicals are not allowed to be burned and that wouldn’t change under a new bylaw.

Montone pointed out since Feb. 2016, there have been 54 open air burning complaint responses at a cost of $12,480. The 54 responses resulted in 19 invoices being issued, meaning $6,975 has been recovered.

Amhersburg fire chief Bruce Montone discusses the proposed open burn bylaw at a public meeting last Tuesday night at Fire Station #2.

Allowable burning that is being proposed under the new bylaw would include two-feet by two-feet campfires, outdoor cooking, recreational outdoor fireplaces, special event activities such as religious ceremonies, forest managing, controlling agricultural pests and diseases and dispensing of debris from natural disasters.

“All municipalities in Essex County have permissive bylaws except Amherstburg,” he said. “Some have permits, some have no permit system.”
Windsor is governed by the Ontario Fire Code.

If a person is approved for a $25 permit, they would be visited by the Amherstburg Fire Department for an inspection and tips on fire safety. The belief is a permit system would allow the fire department a better grasp of what is going on in the community.

“It’s no secret camping and cooking fires take place in Amherstburg without notice,” said Montone. “It is going on.”

Permit holders would also be able to call a hotline or visit the fire department’s Twitter account to see if burning is allowed that day.

Lots that measure 60-feet by 100-feet or smaller still wouldn’t be allowed to have fires, meaning 3,213 properties would be restricted.

Penalties if the fire department has to attend a fire include people having to pay $225 for the duty officer to arrive, $450 if fire crews have to come out with less that six firefighters or $900 if six or more firefighters have to respond.

Residents at last week’s meeting, some of whom did not wish to be identified, expressed concerns with neighbours noting their neighbours already have fires and those fires are closer than 30-feet from structures. Montone suggested that people can have themselves designated as a “sensitive receptor” if they have breathing problems or can call 911 to have a fire crew dispatched to the property where the burning is happening.

“We need to educate the public,” said Montone, adding that sometimes “common sense isn’t too common.”

Patricia Emond suggested a flat $75 fee for town permits, believing the town could make more money and recover additional costs.

Some residents also said they have fire pits in the ground and are just trying to enjoy their properties.

“A lot of us are doing it responsibly and we want to keep doing it,” one woman stated.

The third and final public meeting on the proposed bylaw is Sept. 26 at Fire Station #3 at 7 p.m. An online survey will remain active through Sept. 27 with that found at www.amherstburg.ca and searching for the fire department. The direct link is https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/XVHHBTD.

Montone said the hope is to have some sort of decision made on the bylaw prior to the 2018 burning season.

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.

Two former firefighters get tour of Amherstburg fire hall

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

It was a blast from the past for Leighton Buckner and Tom Dawson.

The two former firefighters received a tour of Amherstburg fire station #1 last Thursday morning, in a trip that was arranged by local resident and retired town administrator Tom Kilgallin. Dawson, a retired deputy chief from Kingsville, and Buckner, a retired district chief from Windsor, received the tour from Amherstburg Chief Bruce Montone and deputy chief Lee Tome.

“I love being here, it’s a nice town,” commented Dawson. “It’s good. I also get back to Kingsville once in a while.”

Estimating he has been retired six or seven years, Dawson said, “things have changed quite a bit.

“Equipment is a lot better than when I first started.”

Dawson spent 42 years with the Kingsville Fire Department but said there is a bond with firefighters regardless of municipality.

Two retired firefighters who now live at Seasons Amherstburg visited Amherstburg fire station #1 last Thursday. From left: retired Kingsville deputy chief Tom Dawson, deputy chief Lee Tome, retired Windsor district chief Leighton Buckner, former mayor Bill Gibb, Chief Bruce Montone, retired administrator Tom Kilgallin and assistant deputy chief Ron Meloche.

Two retired firefighters who now live at Seasons Amherstburg visited Amherstburg fire station #1 last Thursday. From left: retired Kingsville deputy chief Tom Dawson, deputy chief Lee Tome, retired Windsor district chief Leighton Buckner, former mayor Bill Gibb, Chief Bruce Montone, retired administrator Tom Kilgallin and assistant deputy chief Ron Meloche.

“We’re still all brothers,” he said. “When you start hearing the stories, it brings back a lot of memories.”

Buckner, known as “Buck” to his friends and colleagues, worked 34 years in Windsor between 1949-83. He said it is “really nice” to be in Amherstburg, noting that his son lived here and he used to visit.

“I said ‘I wouldn’t mind living here one day’,” said Buckner. “Here I am. I like it.”

The 92-year-old Buckner said he has seen big changes over the years as well, noting the equipment is more advanced compared to his era.

“We couldn’t afford the tires, I believe,” Buckner joked.

Buckner recalled a fire call where the truck driver had the gearshift break off the truck on the way causing alternative measures to be used just to respond to the call.

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.)

“Amherstburg Alert” to improve notification for residents

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

In the event of an emergency or even a community event, the town has entered into a partnership for improved notification.

The town is now working with Everbridge, described by the town as “the worldwide leader in unified critical communications,” to create “Amherstburg Alert.” That system will allow for quicker notification on emergencies through landline telephones and devices of residents’ choosing.

However, the town states it can be used for other alerts over and above emergencies such as road closures, water and utility maintenance and community events.

Amherstburg fire chief and community emergency management coordinator (CEMC) Bruce Montone said residents have flexibility on what notifications they receive and how they receive them. People can choose what types of notifications they want and the methods they are received and in what order. Should someone want notifications by phone call, text message, e-mail, fax or another method, Montone said the system can accommodate that and go in the order if the resident’s choosing.

“We’ve pre-loaded the system with the white and yellow pages,” said Montone, adding Essex Powerlines has also shared its database.

There are 13,000 phone numbers currently entered into the “Amherstburg Alert” system, but Montone said people are encouraged to visit www.amherstburg.ca/alert and register their cell phones, e-mail addresses, fax numbers and any other information they wish in order to get notifications.

The town will be divided into zones for those needing help getting registered for the “Amherstburg Alert” system. The dates are specified above for when residents can visit the Libro Centre. Help centre hours are 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Those not requiring assistance can register at www.amherstburg.ca/alert.

The town will be divided into zones for those needing help getting registered for the “Amherstburg Alert” system. The dates are specified above for when residents can visit the Libro Centre. Help centre hours are 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Those not requiring assistance can register at www.amherstburg.ca/alert.

Emergency notifications are the default setting, he said, but people can choose other types of notifications when they sign up.

There are also internal uses for the Everbridge software, including letting staff know whether to open the emergency operations centre or the ability to target specific streets or neighbourhoods with notifications.

“We can also look at how many people got the notifications,” said Montone.

Montone said if a notification was sent out to 1,000 people and 500 are known to have actually seen it, there are options to send the notification again to ensure people receive it.

People can register now, but those without Internet access or those needing assistance can go to the Libro Centre over four days in August. Dates are Aug. 8, Aug. 9, Aug. 11 and Aug. 14, depending on what zone a person lives in. The zones are based on the waste collection calendar, Montone said.

Registration for the help centre for “Amherstburg Alert “will open Aug. 8 for those found in the Tuesday area of town. Following Aug, 8 will be Aug. 9, Aug. 11 and Aug. 14. It will be open from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. each of those days at the Libro Centre. For questions regarding the help center, please call Fire Station 1 at 519-736-6500. Administration is open from 8:30 a.m.to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The information provided is protected, Montone added, and that people have their own passwords when they register that the user determines. He added the system will work best if people keep their information updated.

Everbridge has employed similar systems in Tecumseh, Leamington and Kingsville, Montone said, with LaSalle to join in the fall. The cost to register is free to the users, but costs the municipality $10,000. It is money Montone believes is well worth it.

“If there is any kind of emergency, communication is vital. This is a significant improvement to be able to communicate with the public,” he said. “We have a commitment to ensure public safety, community awareness and emergency response. To uphold this, when critical information and public service announcements are available, we need to reach our residents as quickly and reliably

as possible. The Everbridge emergency notification system allows Amherstburg to disseminate this information across all types of devices, ensuring residents have access to real-time public information when they need it the most.”

“A resilient, comprehensive critical communications system is an essential tool for towns that need to notify thousands of residents and businesses rapidly and efficiently,” said Jaime Ellertson, CEO of Everbridge in a press release. “Everbridge is proud to have been selected by Amherstburg as a critical component of its public safety and emergency response program.”