New regulations restrict open burning

Grace period allowed to ease in regime

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Burn bans across the coastal region were last lifted Wednesday, but along with the permission to deal with accumulated yard and worksite waste came new provincial regulations that will significantly restrict when and how burns take place.

Changes to the B.C. Open Burning Smoke Control Regulation that went into effect Sept. 15 will effect all open burning aside from campfires in the Gulf Islands area, which has been identified as having the highest level of smoke sensitivity. Salt Spring property owners doing backyard burns will likely soon need to apply for permits for each burning session, instead of having a year-round permit, and respect many other limiting factors.

Although the new regulations are already in effect across the province, Salt Spring Fire Chief Arjuna George said islanders will have some time to get used to the changes and for now things will remain “status quo.”

“Obviously there’s going to be some grace rolling that out. Unfortunately there’s been very little information from the province on it, other than it’s happening,” George said.

George met with the fire chiefs of the other southern Gulf Islands on Thursday to discuss the situation and make sure every district was on the same page. He said many of them had been unaware the change was even happening.

Under the new regulations, residential property owners will be restricted to burning on “good ventilation” days, and can do burning a maximum of 12 days per year (and six days in any month). Residents will need to respect setbacks from neighbouring houses and notify neighbours 24 hours in advance. All open burning must be completed by 4 p.m. or two hours before sunset, whichever is later.

Category 3 machine piles will now require larger setback distances from neighbours,  schools and care facilities, and seasoning of material for four months is now required. Burning will also only be permitted 12 days per year and six days in any month. The maximum burn period is reduced from 72 hours to two days. Material may only be added until four hours before sunset on the day burning starts.

Those doing machine piles will also be required to record the number of piles per site, size of each pile, volume of vegetative material burned, date of ignition and the venting forecast on the date of ignition.

“It really is a smoke control issue. The key is finding an alternative on Salt Spring, because if we don’t we will just increase the wildfire risk,” George said, adding people who don’t have options may be tempted to let fuel pile up indefinitely.

“We don’t want that build up,” he said. 

For more on this story, see the Sept. 25, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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