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Smoked out: City ponders changes to backyard fire bylaw

Published on

Troy Shantz

A woman who says the rules surrounding backyard campfires in Sarnia are too lax has found an ally in Sarnia’s fire chief.

Sue-Ellin Lumsden told council in a letter last month recreational burning in her neighbourhood goes on night and day and is so bad she can’t use her outdoor clothesline without the laundry smelling like smoke.

“I don’t see why fires are burning at 11 a.m. and or early afternoon,” she said. “To me, recreational burning is a fire pit at night for hot dogs and marshmallows.”

The city’s open burning bylaw currently allows residents to burn wood in a small fire pit for 13 hours a day, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 11 p.m.

Sarnia Fire Chief John Kingyens said he wants to change that. No one needs a campfire that long, he said.

“With a continuous wind and smoke… it gets inside the house even if the windows are closed. It still gets in and creates an odour.”

After receiving Lumsden’s complaint, city council asked staff for a report with recommendations and public input on a revised open burning bylaw.

Chief Kingyens said one thing he will recommend is reducing the allowable burning hours. The health of people with asthma and other breathing problems need to take priority over toasted marshmallows, he said.

“There should be no adverse impact upon a neighbour.”

Firefighters occasionally respond to fire calls only to find the source was a smoky campfire. Normally, the resident is warned and educated.

But when fire trucks return to the same home repeatedly “we deal with it,” he said, adding offenders can be billed for the time and expense of the call-out.

The following rules apply to all open burning in Sarnia other than barbecues:

* The fire pit can’t be larger than two feet by two feet (61 centimetres) with a metal screen to limit flames and reduce the escape of embers and ash

* The fire must be at least three metres (10 feet) from all buildings and property lines

* Only clean, dry firewood or charcoal briquettes are allowed. No pressure-treated or creosoted wood

* The fire must be supervised at all times and extinguished when left

* A water source or fire extinguisher must be immediately available.






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