It appears properties in North Cowichan that are outside the urban containment boundary won’t require permits for backyard burning anytime soon.
The municipality decided to research ways to educate residents on proper burning procedures instead at North Cowichan’s council meeting on Nov. 3.
Staff were recommending that council move forward with the plan to require permits for backyard burning outside the UCB as part of a number of changes intended to update the municipality’s fire protection bylaw.
Coun. Christopher Justice questioned whether council should make this change to its bylaw at this time.
“I think many people would regard this as a fairly significant change to past practices, one that would not be made with deep consideration of this issue with rationale and evidence, and certainly no opportunity for engagement or for people to have their say on this,” Justice said.
“I’m a bit worried that this might appear to people to be just more bureaucracy. For sure, the goal if to have people burn less, especially on low-venting days, but I’m wondering if requiring a permit for rural properties to burn will achieve this.”
Coun. Kate Marsh disagreed with Justice, saying that when she was first elected to council, the goal was to try to ban backyard burning everywhere step by step over time.
She said moves to ban backyard burning is not just about dealing with out-of-control fires, but the fact that the Cowichan Valley has one of the highest hospitalization rates of people with respiration challenges during the burning season in the province.
“What I would like to see is when someone comes in for burning permit, they would also be provided with a fact sheet on the impacts of burning on those with lung issues,” Marsh said.
Coun. Rob Douglas said North Cowichan has spent two years reviewing its fire regulations with significant input from environmental staff, and requiring permits to burn outside the UCB was never one of the recommendations.
“The recommendation was to require a permit process for larger properties within the UCB,” he said.
“My suggestion is we take this out of the [recommended changes to the fire protection bylaw]. If council has the desire to restrict burning outside the UCB, then that’s a totally different conversation.”
Mayor Al Siebring said he’s also not in favour of adding an extra level of permits, especially when it’s not clear why the municipality wants to change the bylaw to require the permits.
Council voted to remove the amendment from the fire protection bylaw, and directed staff to develop a strategy that would educate people on backyard burning and ways to properly burn.