open burn bylaw

Town passes new open burn bylaw

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A process that resulted in three public meetings late last summer has concluded with a newly passed open burn bylaw.

Town council passed the new open burn bylaw thanks to a 5-1 vote Monday night. Fire chief Bruce Montone said the bylaw is “reasonably close” to what was presented last year.

Voting in favour of the new bylaw was Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and councillors Jason Lavigne, Rick Fryer, Joan Courtney and Leo Meloche. Councillor Diane Pouget was opposed while Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale was not at Monday night’s meeting.

Properties will have to be inspected before a permit is granted. The bylaw also contains other provisions depending on the type of fire set, the setting (urban vs. rural) or if a device such as an outdoor fireplace or chiminea is being used. Montone said firefighters will assess each lot before a permit is granted and that an inspection has to be passed before a permit is issued. Some lots may be too small for a campfire but that will be determined through inspection.

“The biggest challenge we had in the community were bonfires,” he said.

A frequent request was to have small campfires so that people could enjoy each others’ company and enjoy outdoor cooking, he added, though noting all fires have to be properly extinguished and will not be allowed to burn out on its own.

A hotline will be established so that people can call in and see if they can have a fire that day, he noted, with the Amherstburg Alert system being another way to notify residents.

“I’m hoping we found a happy medium between those in the community who wanted open burns and those were against it,” said Montone.

Another challenge will be the volume of inspections in the first year, he noted, though that is expected to subside in subsequent years. Upwards of 1,000 people could ask for a permit, he estimated.

DiCarlo said the bylaw was very well thought out and said it won’t amount to Amherstburg being a “pollution zone” as not every resident will be eligible for open burns will be allowed to do it or will want to have a fire.

“It will come down to a property by property basis,” the mayor stated. “There will be things to learn. Now we have put the fire department in a position to educate people.”

Pouget voiced numerous concerns, including the possibility that smoke could infringe on other people’s property and negatively impact seniors, children and those with disabilities.

“(Smoke) contains many of the same toxins as tobacco smoke,” she said. “I can’t play Russian roulette with the health and safety of our residents.”

The bylaw could also “pit neighbour against neighbour,” she believed, as some neighbours won’t be able to have a fire while others will depending on their lot size.

“It will tax our fire department’s resources,” she added.

Courtney admitted she was on the fence until speaking with Montone earlier in the day Monday but was satisfied with what she heard. Fryer said outdoor fires can do such things as uplift a person’s spirit and provide “joyful experiences,” adding that ancestors spent years cooking over open fire.

“Many of us experience more smoke over a barbecue or a stove than a campfire,” added Meloche. “Education is going to be a big part of how you manage smoke from campfires.”

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.