In an effort to bring some warmer moments to the final months of winter, residents of St. Albert will be allowed to host at-home gatherings around a blazing wood fire on their front driveways.
The three-month pilot project offers a Saturday night relaxation of the city's fire bylaw, which requires homeowners to get a permit for residential firepits that must be situated in the backyard, Michael Bos, the city's fire prevention officer, told CBC Radio's Edmonton AM on Tuesday.
Bos said the fire department has previously allowed for front driveway firepits twice before. This time, though, it's being opened up to wood fires as well as propane-fuelled firepits.
"We're relaxing a portion of the bylaw to allow people to put their firepit — a portable, wood-burning firepit — on the driveway, provided it complies with all the other requirements of the bylaw," Bos said.
Wood-burning fires need to be enclosed in a portable container made of heavy gauge metal, according to the city's website. Propane firepits, which don't produce smoke or sparks, are preferable.
And regardless of which fuel they burn, the firepits must be set up on the front driveway and taken down by midnight, the website adds.
Current provincial health regulations aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19 allow for a maximum of 10 people to gather outdoors.
In addition to abiding by that regulation, St. Albert residents must also be mindful of municipal rules, such as the fire's proximity to property lines and structures, adult supervision and restriction to only burn clean wood.
The first time the city allowed for front yard firepits was at Halloween, Bos said..
"We had a really good response," he said. "People put their firepits on their driveway and the kids were still able to do their thing, so we felt it was a positive thing, so we carried it forward."
After seeing their success, they allowed the Saturday night relaxation again in December but that was cancelled after the province imposed new restrictions on Dec. 8 banning all outdoor gatherings.
Bos said wood-burning firepits hadn't been allowed before because they can be a nuisance.
"They do cause a lot of smoke at times. They aren't always properly attended and sometimes there's issues around it," he said.
The driveway firepits do not require any permits but they are only allowed until midnight on Saturdays.