The Municipality of North Cowichan is considering big changes to its open-burning policies. (File photo)

The Municipality of North Cowichan is considering big changes to its open-burning policies. (File photo)

Changes to burning rules proposed

Municipality of North Cowichan is looking to overhaul its burning bylaw

Big changes could soon be coming to North Cowichan’s open-burning policies.

Regulated times during the year in which the municipality allows open burning could be scrapped if council moves forward with plans to overhaul its burning bylaw.

As well, council is considering allowing burning to occur on properties greater than two acres within the urban containment boundary for the first time with a permit from North Cowichan.

Council gave the first two readings to amendments to the fire bylaw at its meeting on July 19.

The municipality will now begin a public information campaign to provide information on the proposed changes to the bylaw, and a mandatory public hearing will be held to gather input before council considers the final reading and implementation of the new rules, which are expected in the fall or early winter.

North Cowichan’s engineering technologist Shaun Chadburn said in a report that limiting burning activities to only two months of the year – from March 15 to April 15, and Oct. 15 to Nov. 15 – that the bylaw currently allows had led to a number of issues.

He said limiting the burning times concentrates emissions and leads residents to burn illegally during improper venting conditions

“Staff at North Cowichan and the Cowichan Valley Regional District have observed many instances where people are burning on days with improper venting conditions in order to comply with our burning window,” Chadburn said.

As for allowing properties with more than two acres within the UCB to open burn, Chadburn said properties that are between two and five acres can produce a significant amount of woody debris.

He said that requiring those property owners to haul large amounts of woody debris off site could create a burden for those who wish to reduce the fire hazards on their properties.

“The proposed permitting system process will provide (these property owners) the opportunity to keep their lots forested while supporting fire-hazard mitigation,” Chadburn said.

“(The new process) would provide the landowners with a package of information on how to burn properly within the new requirements of the bylaw, including best-management practices for burning, and will aid in any enforcement action if necessary.”

Other proposed changes to the bylaw include not allowing wood-burning appliances to be used during air-quality advisories unless the appliance is the only source of heat for the dwelling, and both the owner and occupier of a property may be liable and required to pay a fine for a fire set in contravention of the bylaw.

Coun. Tom Walker said he thinks the proposed changes to the bylaw are a “good trade off” to meet all the needs of North Cowichan’s citizens.

“But those who are against open burning are not going to give up,” he said.

“We have to face up to the fact that not everyone will be happy with these proposed changes.”