Strat­ford’s camp­fire rules re­main un­changed


The no­tion of ban­ning wood-burn­ing back­yard camp­fires in favour of sup­pos­edly cleaner gas-burn­ing ap­pli­ances went up in smoke Tuesday night as it was voted down by Strat­ford’s stand­ing com­mit­tee on in­fra­struc­ture, trans­porta­tion and safety.

When faced with the choice of ban­ning all recre­ational fires in Strat­ford, al­low­ing clean burn­ing fires only, or keep­ing the cur­rent open air burn­ing by­law as is, coun­cil­lors voted to main­tain the sta­tus quo de­spite a sub­com­mit­tee rec­om­men­da­tion to phase in the gas-burn­ing op­tion by 2020.

“We’ve now be­come the no-fun po­lice. I get lots of calls in my of­fice from peo­ple who get up­set about (the smoke from) wood-burn­ing fires. I’m asth­matic my­self and I have a neigh­bour who en­joys them. Nor­mally a con­ver­sa­tion between two neigh­bours solves (the prob­lem), and I think in some cases we’re now get­ting into a lot of neigh­bour­hood dis­putes,” Mayor Dan Mathieson said.

“(Re­cently), I’ve had lots of peo­ple call­ing me say­ing, ‘So my fam­ily now has to spend a cou­ple hun­dred dol­lars to have a nat­u­ral gas line or propane tank in­stalled to have free fam­ily fun in my yard?’”

Al­though Strat­ford fire Chief John Par­adis ex­plained that lim­it­ing recre­ational fires to gas-burn­ing ap­pli­ances would ease the is­sue of smoke-re­lated complaints stem­ming from wood-burn­ing camp­fires, some coun­cil­lors were wary of the cost of in­stalling those ap­pli­ances, as well as the claim they are com­pletely clean burn­ing.

“We’re pick­ing on one very small com­po­nent (of air qual­ity), when the is­sue seems to be around neigh­bours not be­ing po­lite to neigh­bours and not be­ing good about rec­og­niz­ing their fire is ac­tu­ally in­fring­ing on oth­ers,” Coun. Kathy Vas­si­lakos said af­ter ques­tion­ing the en­vi­ron­men­tal ef­fects of burn­ing char­coal bri­quettes and other fuels al­lowed for food prepa­ra­tion un­der the city’s open air burn­ing by­law.

“The other part of it is nat­u­ral gas is clean burn­ing on site, but it’s a fos­sil fuel. It’s not re­new­able. It doesn’t in­volve trees, which are car­bon synced to be­gin with and car­bon neu­tral on the cy­cle, and it in­volves trans­porta­tion and get­ting it there … So when you look at the par­tic­u­lates, you are ac­tu­ally spend­ing. You are con­tribut­ing to air qual­ity.”

Al­though the open air burn­ing by­law will re­main as is, coun­cil­lors did take steps to­wards ad­dress­ing the is­sue of prob­lem burn­ers by sug­gest­ing the fire depart­ment look at in­cre­men­tally in­creas­ing the fine levied on re­peat of­fend­ers.

Cur­rently, the fire depart­ment is­sues fines of $300 ($250 plus a $50 ad­min­is­tra­tion fee) to those in con­tra­ven­tion of the by­law, while the by­law it­self al­lows for fines up to $5,000.

“I think we could prob­a­bly di­rect staff, when they en­force the by­law, to have that fine in­crease dra­mat­i­cally for re­peat, re­peat, re­peat, re­peat of­fend­ers,” Coun. Frank Mark sug­gested. “The by­law does al­low us to ad­dress that.”

Along those lines, Coun. Bon­nie Hen­der­son moved to have staff in­ves­ti­gate how best to ad­dress re­peat of­fend­ers, which was car­ried unan­i­mously.

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