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Case for limited return of backyard burning made

Nelson Daily Editor
By Nelson Daily Editor
March 22nd, 2011

By Timothy Schafer, The Nelson Daily

The issue of backyard burning continued to smoulder in City council as the fire chief delivered his pronouncement report on the merit of trial project last fall.

City council had asked fire chief Simon Grypma to assemble a report on how to handle the future delivery, or cancellation, of backyard burning, even on a limited basis.

For his part, Grypma could not deliver a decisive answer one way or another, and asked council to weigh the benefits of both disallowing and allowing a regular backyard burning period.

“It’s a very sensitive and touching subject and it won’t go away,” he said about the findings in his report.

He said it was council’s decision to move it one way or another. The sentiment in council was divided as they struggled to find the middle ground on the issue.

“It makes more sense to me to have the fire department continue to deliver what they did last fall. It is far better to allow people to deal with this on their property each year,” said Coun. Donna Macdonald.

It was resolved for council to adopt a Backyard Burn Policy at their April 4 regular meeting.

Council passed having two burn periods per year, one in April and another in October, set at the discretion of council.

The policy was to include a statement whereby burn permits would be issued by the fire department during the council-approved yard waste burning period.

Permits for backyard burning were suggested at $10.


Where the concerns arise from

The Ministry of Environment has advised that Nelson has a relatively poor air quality index. While burning is permitted all year round in the surrounding areas, backyard burning could negatively impact Nelson’s air quality index, thereby negatively impacting on the environment and public health.

However, disposal of combustible vegetation and hazard abatement in wildfire interface areas significantly reduces the threat of wildfire and also enhances wildlife habitat.

While the fire chief was authorized by bylaw to approve a backyard waste burning period, a carefully framed policy which provided stipulations in which a permit may be issued by the Nelson Fire Department is expected to help council balance the need for wildfire mitigation with important environmental and public health issues, a City staff report read.

At the Oct. 4 City council meeting council had approved a burning period from Oct. 5 through to Oct. 31. Council had also requested at the meeting a report be prepared by the fire chief on the effectiveness of the burning period.


The backyard burn period that was

The backyard burn period in 2010 was the first in the city since 2007 when they issued 236 permits, compared to the 77 they issued last fall.

When a telephone survey of people who used backyard burn permits was done (25 people in all), it was found the permits were not used just for disposing of yard waste but for the cleaning up of woody debris (77 per cent) — a potential hazard in the instance of an interface forest fire.

Of the 77 permits issued, only one permit was not acted upon (due to time and weather venting).

The majority of materials burned consisted of small to medium diameter branches and yard waste, with three homeowners burning larger wood materials such as logs and trees.

Most people (77 per cent) said they not only wanted to avoid a trip to the waste transfer station, but they also wished to assist the City in their Community Fire Smart Initiative to reduce the risk of an interface fire.

One person said their efforts were entirely focused on reducing the woody debris as far back as 30 metres into the forest.

In the future, any further burn permits issued should consider the size, location of the property within the interface area, and access as a determining factor for issuing such a permit, said chief Grypma.


See also

  Backyard burning a smoking success

  Backyard burning blazes through council

  Back burner for backyard burning issue




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