Editorial: Archaic backyard burning a health hazard and needs to stop

There’s still a blight on this idyllic scene — smoke.

The archaic practice of backyard burning has to go.

The weather has been stunningly beautiful and unseasonably warm over the last two weeks, and predictably residents are getting out in their gardens to do spring clean-up along with doing other maintenance work around their homes and yards. The sun has been shining, the birds have been singing and bees have been humming. But there’s still a blight on this idyllic scene — smoke.

Backyard burning is completely prohibited within the City of Duncan and the Town of Lake Cowichan, as well as properties under two acres within the urban containment boundary in North Cowichan, but residents in other Cowichan Valley jurisdictions aren’t bound by the same rules. This means, you guessed it, a bunch of smoky fires have hazed the crystal blue sky as residents burn their yard waste. Unfortunately, even many people within areas where backyard burning is forbidden disregard the rules and burn anyway. Enforcement is lax, to say the least.

There are alternatives that we beg people to take advantage of. A lot of yard waste can be composted and then put back on the garden as nourishment. If you don’t want to compost it, or simply have too much, it is free to drop off yard waste at the Cowichan Valley’s transfer stations. Free! So instead of lighting a fire and driving your neighbours indoors on a beautiful spring day and risking their health (and your own), be considerate and take a few minutes to head to the transfer station instead. Your neighbours will thank you. Your own lungs and heart will thank you, too.

We’d love to see our local governments designate spring and fall clean-up days, where they would pick up people’s accumulated yard waste. We think this would also cut down on fires.

We all have to live together in this Cowichan Valley, where our topography traps smoke in a polluting haze. What you do in this instance doesn’t just affect you, it affects people for kilometres around. Backyard burning needs to be banned for all. Until then, we’re counting on you wanting to be a good neighbour.

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