As complaints over backyard fires spike, Windsor city council turned down a pilot project and city bylaw that would more closely regulate outdoor fires.
More than 100 additional complaints about open-air fires have been filed this year compared to last, bringing the total to 276, Windsor Fire Chief Stephen Laforet told council during Monday's meeting. He said this is likely due to people being home during the pandemic.
Safety and environmental concerns were cited by councillors who voted against the three-year pilot project and city-bylaw that required people to purchase permits, proposed by Ward 8 Coun. Gary Kaschak.
These are some of the same concerns that have prevented the city from allowing open-air burning in the past. Only for extreme or special circumstances have open fires been allowed within city limits, according to the report brought to council.
"I'm a bit perplexed as to why a smaller community like Windsor has not had this for 30 years," Kaschak told council, adding that other comparable and larger cities that neighbour the region, like Brampton and Oakville, have been successful at allowing open-air burning.
Open burning would include any fire or burning practice performed outside that includes small and large confined fires, fires and burn barrels, outdoor recreational fireplaces, prescribed burning and construction and demolition site fires.
Restrictions presented by Kaschak included fires being allowed Thursdays to Sundays between 6 p.m. and midnight, along with specific requirements of the pit itself and a list of materials allowed to be burned.
He added that in 2023, the city can assess the project to determine how it would like to move forward.
Laforet, who brought a report to council on open-air burning, said he was against it, despite Kaschak asking for strict regulations to govern the project.
The bylaw and pilot program present a number of challenges, Laforet countered.
"There's certainly public safety...it's not necessarily about someone being injured, but it's about the environmental impact and how you can impact your neighbours through smoke and what not," he said. "What do you do on days with high humidex readings or poor air quality?"
Not only that, Laforet added that it would require enforcement, which comes with a cost.
Following a discussion of the report and proposal, council voted against the motion by a vote of 5 to 4 with the mayor being the deciding vote.
Open-air burning will continue to be regulated through Ontario's Fire Code which states that this type of activity cannot take place unless it is approved or if it is a small, confined fire used to cook food on a grill, barbecue or spit and is supervised.
Failure to comply with the regulations could result in a fine of up to $50,000, according to Windsor Fire's website.
Though Windsorites can't have an open-air fire, they are allowed to have alternative appliances that use natural gas or propane as fuel.