Talk of pos­si­ble ban on open fires, piles of de­bris

The Compass - - Front page - BY CHRIS LEWIS [email protected]­n­com­pass.ca

Bon­fire night is a tra­di­tion in New­found­land and as in past years, it took place on Nov. 5.

But one par­tic­u­lar bon­fire in the River­head area Mon­day evening was cause for con­cern. The mat­ter was brought for­ward in the Har­bour Grace town coun­cil cham­bers the fol­low­ing evening.

At a reg­u­lar meet­ing of coun­cil on Nov. 6 the dan­gers of the River­head fire, that was still burn­ing only hours prior to Tues­day night’s meet­ing, was dis­cussed.

The is­sue was ini­tially brought up by Deputy Mayor So­nia Wil­liams, who also acts as coun­cil’s fire de­part­ment li­ai­son.

“There was an in­ci­dent that hap­pened last night that got out of hand, and I’d like to know why it got out of hand,” she said at the be­gin­ning of her re­port. “There was ap­par­ently a pile of garbage, con­struc­tion ma­te­rial, and stuff that’s not al­lowed to be burned that was ig­nited.”

Wil­liams added she had con­cerns as to why this pile was al­lowed to be burned, de­spite be­ing brought to the at­ten­tion of the town of­fice.

Town man­ager Michael Sac­cary ex­plained that the pile of garbage in ques­tion was brought to their at­ten­tion prior to bon­fire night, and that it was also of con­cern for the lo­cal fire bri­gade. Sac­cary said he had the town’s mu­nic­i­pal en­force­ment of­fi­cer (MEO) check out the sit­u­a­tion.

Af­ter some con­ver­sa­tions, the MEO re­ported back to Sac­cary to ex­plain that the per­son re­spon­si­ble for the pile had the means to con­trol the fire, in­clud­ing a hose and pump.

“He had some stuff that he had piled there, like all the other bon­fire sites did, so there’s noth­ing that we could re­ally do, other than to just keep an eye on it to see if it causes any prob­lems,” Sac­cary said dur­ing the Nov. 6 meet­ing. “The fire de­part­ment went up (Mon­day night), as well as the en­force­ment of­fi­cer, and I was up my­self, and it was con­trolled very well.”

How­ever, Wil­liams went on to state that it was ac­tu­ally the ma­te­rial that was be­ing burned, as well as the pos­si­ble dan­gers of the flames, that were of con­cern to her, not­ing she had re­ceived some pho­tos of the fire ear­lier that day.

Wil­liams also noted she had been told that the pile to be burned reached up­wards of 20 to 25-feet high, and felt as though this pile should not have been burned in the first place, and in­stead trans­ported to the lo­cal dump­ing sta­tion.

“Look­ing at the pic­tures of pile of de­bris that was there, I don’t even think, as a coun­cil, we should have al­lowed it to be there,” added Coun. Kathy Tet­ford. “I don’t know what spe­cific reg­u­la­tions we have, but I do be­lieve we do have reg­u­la­tions some­where that would let us stop peo­ple from burn­ing things that aren’t safe, and I do feel for any­one that was liv­ing in that area, be­cause if the wind changed, it could have ended up a lot worse.”

Tet­ford went on to ex­press an in­ter­est in plac­ing some sort of ban on any open fires of this sort, or any big piles of de­bris, mak­ing spe­cific men­tion of the pos­si­ble dan­gers that could arise from such an oc­cur­rence, were it to hap­pen again in the fu­ture.

“I’ll add to that and say that let’s hope we’re still lucky tonight, be­cause as of 6:30 this evening, that fire was still burn­ing, so let’s hope when the wind goes up tonight that we’re not all burned out,” added Coun. Lyda Byrne, who ques­tioned if tox­ins in the smoke from the fire in ques­tion posed health is­sues to peo­ple in the area.

Go­ing for­ward, Mayor Don Coombs sug­gested that if this was some­thing coun­cil wished to look into, they come up with a rec­om­men­da­tion to be brought be­fore coun­cil in the fu­ture. He would also like to re­view what the cur­rent reg­u­la­tions are re­gard­ing fam­ily bon­fires in the com­mu­nity.


The flames in ques­tion from this bon­fire could be seen from above the tree­tops of neigh­bour­ing homes.

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