Open air burning bylaw deferred in Highlands East

By Sue Tiffin

Published March 19 2019

Highlands East councillors were hesitant about a new open air burning bylaw brought forward by Chris Baughman acting fire chief.

County fire chiefs had reviewed and amended the open air burning bylaws after the close of the fire season in October last year to ensure consistent rules throughout the county “this hopefully reducing any confusion with burn regulations in a particular area” read Baughman’s report.

A potential amendment to part four of the bylaw was expected by Baughman to “bring up some comments.” It reads: Burn permits are not valid on Saturdays Sundays or holiday Mondays.

“We had a lot of conversation about this ourselves I put it in here just so you would have an option to see it” he said. He noted that Dysart had never allowed permits to be taken out on Saturday Sunday or holiday Mondays reducing false calls they had received on the weekend and also allowing fire department staff to enjoy holidays with fewer false calls to follow up on.

Councillor Suzanne Partridge asked about the statistics of false calls which Baughman didn’t know off hand. She asked if it had been a problem.

“Yes” said Baughman. “I can’t say that it’s happening every weekend but five or six times in the summer where we’re called out at night when someone sees the bonfire across the lake and they don’t have an address so then we’re driving around for an hour and a half to two hours looking for it but by the time we find where the smoke was it’s now the size of a small campfire … it hasn’t been a huge problem.”

Deputy Mayor Cec Ryall asked if these were instances in which permits had been issued to which Baughman replied: some of them.

“And I don’t have any statistics that say this will make it any different” he said. “Dysart in their opinion says it has improved.” He said he understood Dysart’s points but was looking to council for direction.

“I think with the number of seasonal residents we have here and a lot of them only have weekends to get rid of the brush that maybe we should [allow the permits on the weekend]” said Partridge. She asked for statistics on calls about fires that have permits to determine if an issue exists.

Also within the bylaw draft the hours not to burn without a permit – from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. – replace the more inconsistent terms of half an hour before sunrise or half an hour after sunset.

“It saves on confusion for the public that there’s a set time that they can have a fire” said Baughman who said people who want to have a fire wouldn’t have to check on what time sunset was happening that day.

Council asked for the bylaw to return to the table at a March 26 meeting.