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.

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