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.)

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