Halifax regional council has extinguished any plans to prohibit open-air, wood burning fires in urban areas of HRM.
The idea was proposed by Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency as a way to end the hundreds of nuisance 911 calls firefighters respond to every year.
A staff report before council recommended bylaw amendments that would have banned all fires on properties without a septic tank, increased the minimum distance between a fire and any neighbouring structure from 15 to 50 feet, and prohibited any homemade wood burning devices or food smokers.
Angry emails, messages and phone calls caused council to reject those ideas and leave the municipality's complicated burning regulations virtually unchanged.
The bylaw, as it stands, isn't well-enforced or apparently understood, but the fire department’s approach to solving that problem was like “killing a mosquito with a sledgehammer,” according to councillor Barry Dalrymple.
Some councillors warned that the underlying problem—residents affected by smoke from neighbouring fires—will still need to be addressed, though.
“This is not an issue that’s going to go away,” said Jennifer Watts.
Comments from HRM residents that council was acting like a “nanny state” were inappropriate, Watts said. She mentioned a senior in District 8 who’s lived in her home for decades but is virtually unable to go outside on summer evenings because of the smoke from neighbouring backyard fires.
Several councillors said the solution to the problem was that residents needed to be more neighbourly—settling disputes amongst themselves so as not to ruin everyone else's fun.
“Let’s not punish those that are following the rules,” said Tony Mancini. “Being a good Maritimer, we like to enjoy our backyard patios and campfires.”
Deputy fire chief Roy Hollett told council it was being optimistic about Haligonian diplomacy, however. Several firefighters responding to open air burning calls have found themselves threatened by residents, Hollett said, including one who had a crossbow pointed at him.
“If the neighbours liked each other, we wouldn’t be here.”
Two requests from Watts—for a staff report on better enforcement options of the current bylaw and an education campaign about what open air burning is allowed—passed unanimously.
Council also approved a recommendation from HRFE to limit industrial burning permits to areas larger than one acre.