Chiminea matter sent to committee
Barrie's outdoor burning ban still smoulders.
Instead of confirming the current regulations Monday on chimineas, or outdoor burning appliances, city council sent the matter back to its community services committee for further review.
Coun. Barry Ward said there are too many people unhappy with the policy — from residents to the fire department — to continue with the status quo unquestioned.
"Accepting our current policy without taking another look would be a mistake," he said. "When this was proposed a few years ago, I thought there was going to be zero tolerance. That has not happened."
This matter will be reviewed at the community services committee meeting in December or January.
A city bylaw permits chimineas, with a $10 permit, for property owners or tenants with the owner's consent. But it prohibits their use between midnight and 8 a.m., with a $250 set fine for infractions.
Councillors were to consider a total ban last week — effective Jan. 1, 2014 — but the motion never made it onto the floor.
Geoff Gelfand says he hopes city council does consider the ban.
"I agree (the devices) have a certain allure to them. However, with that mystique comes plumes of smoke, sparks and foul odours and who knows what noxious chemicals," said the south-end resident, who has suffered from asthma most of his life, in a letter to city councillors. "We would all like to enjoy those nights in which there is a cool breeze and not have to run the air conditioning (to avoid the smoke)."
Gelfand said the way the bylaw stands now, most homeowners in the city shouldn't even be considering using a chiminea.
"In your typical Barrie subdivision, the average lot size does not even allow for the bylaw to be adhered to (because) burning must take place 15 metres from a structure," he said. "I venture that eliminates the majority of Barrie backyards. You can see in this example alone that by not banning the devices, you are in fact condoning the violation of the bylaw."
Gelfand said the deterrents in place don't help people like him.
"It is not as simple to say 'call the city or the fire department' because when they address it, the fire has burned all the time and my house has now filled with the obnoxious foul odour of smoke," he said. "Further, when it is doused — as it has to be on every occasion for violations — the smoke is multiplied that much more. It is in the furniture, the carpet, the clothing and the air. Closing the windows does not help in any way. It merely slows it down."
If the bylaw stands, Barrie councillors are contributing to unhealthy scenarios, he said.
"We cannot pretend to be a growing city and still act like cottagers," he said. "Your inactions, and those of your colleagues who voted with you, are inflicting damage onto people for the sake of a backyard fire."
Barrie Fire Chief John Lynn supports the ban, saying fire department resources and people's health are what's most important. His department has received 212 complaints about the burning appliances between January and September this year and Lynn said it could hit 260 by year's end. The city has issued 2,689 permits during the first nine months of 2012. There have been 26 fire appliance tickets issued so far this year, and six permits have been revoked.
Lynn says the average complaint probably consumes about an hour of time for the four firefighters who attend each call, in a truck. He said the fire department bills $410 an hour. Should there be an emergency, these firefighters are also not in the best place to respond to another call. But Coun. Michael Prowse has said the permit fees cover firefighters' expenses and the tickets and permit revokes are an adequate deterrent. In his staff report, Lynn cites Environment Canada about the dangers of smoke and gases from burning wood; they contain sulphur, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and carcinogenic compounds.
He also cites a University of Washington study, Health Effects of Wood Smoke, that shows smoke wood particles are too small to be filtered by the nose and upper respiratory system – so they can end up in the lungs.
Closed doors and windows don't stop these particles from seeping into homes either. Wood smoke also worsens existing conditions, such as asthma and emphysema. More than two years ago, the fire department asked for a total ban on the devices.
The previous council turned it down. In 2007, city council passed a bylaw to regulate the burning appliances and monitor complaints for two years. They were, at the time, exempt from the bylaws which regulated the setting of open fires.
• with files from Ian McInroy