Fire department survey to study outdoor burns

Fire department survey to study outdoor burns
By Tim Miller
The Belleville Intelligencer
Link to article: Fire department survey to study outdoor burns

With wildfires rampaging through the California countryside — and the memory of Canada’s own Fort McMurray firestorm still fresh — the Belleville Fire Department is taking a closer look at its outdoor burning policies.

“They basically all started somewhat similar,” said Deputy Fire Chief Paul Patry about the California and Fort McMurray wildfires. “Meaning they were very small in nature, they weren’t necessarily done maliciously.”

Patry said having proper rules and regulations around open-air burning is key to keeping controlled burns from becoming uncontrolled blazes.

“The intention was to burn a little bit of debris and the next thing you know they’ve burned up five acres and a couple of dry sheds.

“We’re not immune to those large-scale fires geographically just because we’re not in California,” he said, pointing to the large tracts of countryside surrounding the city and up into Thurlow Ward. “We could just as easily be having large-scale fires like them.”

Even small fires can have a big impact on fire department resources, not to mention ever-present health and safety concerns for responders and residents both.

“It has a very negative impact on the environment, it can have a very negative impact on staff.

“Burning can be done safely, but we have to be mindful of it. And not everyday lends itself for safe burning.”

As part of the review process the fire department is seeking community input, asking residents to complete a short, on-line survey. The survey is intended to provide public feedback which can be taken in to consideration during the policy update process.

Patry said the survey will allow the department to gather information on who’s participating in outdoor burning, how much burning is done in rural areas versus urban areas and methods they are using to burn, among other things.

The data will be used to assess both the needs and risks currently associated with outdoor burns.

“Really it’s to get some feedback to what should the rules look like.”

The survey runs until Feb. 28 at which point the fire department is expecting to start an education program as well as communicate if any changes are needed to existing policy as burning season gets closer.

Information will be also be provided to city council. Permits for open-air burning have to be acquired through city hall.

“Open air burning really impacts everybody,” said Patry. “And before we have to start looking at restrictions, let’s try and get some input from the community and see what they think.”

The survey can be found at 

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