News Local

Town revising open air burning bylaw

By Sean Chase, The Daily Observer

PETAWAWA – The town will soon be updating its open air bylaw hopefully clearing up any confusion over where and when bonfires and brush burning can take place. 

In 2004, a by-law was enacted to control both open air fires and recreational fires within municipal boundaries. Since the by-law was adopted, front counter staff have fielded many inquiries to explain the difference between an open air fire and a recreational fire.

“The term open air seems to have caused confusion with our residents,” explained fire chief Steve Knott, who presented the amended bylaw for review at the council-in-committee meeting this week.

With the assistance of deputy clerk Dawn Recoskie and administrative assistant Kathy Pivato, the by-law has been revised to make it more user friendly.

“It will take into account the costs associated with issuing a fire permit, including site inspection time and administrative time, and to also ensure the continued safety of residents,” added Knott.

Since “open air fire” seemed to cause confusion, the bylaw will replace the term with “Rural Fires.” Knott said this definition made more sense as open air burning was limited to rural properties. Under the draft by-law only properties with a 911/Civic address posted will be considered for a fire permit, something not in the current legislation.

Rural fires have now been limited to properties with a minimum size of three acres or 1.2 hectares under the new bylaw. For public safety a “rural fire” will not be permitted in a residential subdivision. Rural Fires may be conducted between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. only between October 1 and April 30. The bylaw will include a “Special Occasion Fire permit” and barbecues will no longer be defined as open air burning.

There will be increases to the fee structure, which hasn't changed since 2004. The “Recreational Fire Permit” fee has been increased from $20 to $25. The draft by-law has also instituted an inspection fee of $25 for “Recreational Fire Permits”, “Rural Fire Permits”, and “Special Occasion Fire Permits.” The draft by-law has instituted an inspection fee of $75 for “Campground Fire Permits.” The daily rate for “Rural Fire Permits” has increased from $2 to $4.

According to current statistics, there are currently 772 active Recreational Fire permits and 51 Open Air (Rural) permits on file. Of the current 51 Open Air (Rural) permits, 26 permit holders would not be eligible under the proposed by-law as they do not meet the proposed minimum requirement of three acres or 1.2 hectares of land. Recreational fire permits are the most popular. In 2017, there were 775 active permits.

Councillor Murray Rutz said there isn't a day that goes by that he isn't approached by residents asking for clarification on bonfires or brush burning. He added he thinks this amended bylaw will clear up the confusion.

“I hope the public will abide by the rules,” said Rutz. “I know other municipalities would not allow this so we are pretty lucky.”

Council inquired if the fire department anticipates pushback once this bylaw is enacted. Knott said this will cause difficulties with some owners whose properties fall underneath the three-acre minimum. Some were concerned about enforcement.

“The changes will definitely be looked at as an advancment from where we were,” said Deputy Mayor Tom Mohns. “But who is going to enforce it?”

Knott answered that should they be called out to an open air fire, fire department personnel will investigate and lay charges if there is a contravention of the bylaw.



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