Smoke and open burning in Metchosin, BC, Canada.

- Discussion -

Metchosin is a rural community so a certain amount of burning of yard debris is to be expected. As BC Air Quality notes, if the fire is quick-burning and hot and burns only dry materials, it will be efficient and produce a minimum amount of smoke.

Unfortunately, many open burns in Metchosin are in violation of the bylaws (fire and/or zoning) and/or the provincial Open Burning Smoke Control Regulation (OBSCR):

  • evening and overnight fires
  • business-related burning
  • materials brought in from off-site
  • burning of construction and other prohibited materials
  • land-clearing fires not following the OBSCR requirements
  • burning in-ground stumps

There is little consideration of the effects of the smoke on other Metchosin (and Langford) residents. It also puts an unreasonable burden on the Metchosin Fire Department which has to respond to the illegal burning and smoke complaints.

Metchosin currently ignores most of the restrictive parts of its Fire Regulation and Prevention Bylaw designed to protect residents from excessive smoke. None of the following restrictions/requirements for open burning or burning in an incinerator are currently enforced:

The passing of a bylaw goes through a democratic process that includes input from residents, discussion, debate, and a vote by mayor and council. It is not reasonable for someone at a later date to arbitrarily decide not to enforce any of the provisions that were included to protect residents from excessive smoke. If these provisions are not the best way to limit smoke, then a new bylaw should be proposed. Until then, the existing bylaw should be enforced.

In April/May 2011 Metchosin changed its website to allow burning until dusk. In May/June, that ranged from 9:00 pm to 9:40 pm. The bylaw requires fires be out by 6:00 pm. With some prompting it was changed back to 6 pm in October 2011.

Metchosin distributes a brochure titled "Smoke Control & Burning Guidelines" in which they state: "Burning is permitted from 6 am to 6 pm only". According to the bylaw, open burning (and burning in incinerators) is not allowed before 8 am.

Does This Make Sense?

The CRD prohibits anyone from smoking on the outdoor patio of a pub or restaurant...

....Dr. Richard Stanwick, Chief Medical Health Officer for the Vancouver Island Health Authority, had requested the bylaw amendment, citing second hand smoke as a serious health risk to both staff and patrons of hospitality establishments.... CRD Chair's Update, June 2007

On September 25, 2013, the CRD moved and carried...

That staff be directed to draft an amendment of the Clean Air Bylaw and an implementation plan to: a) Ban smoking within the Region in: all public playgrounds and public playing fields; designated public spaces in municipalities; Regional parks; all areas of Electoral Area community parks; and, all municipal parks... Meeting Minutes
CRD Planning, Transportation and Protective Services Committee
September 25, 2013.

And yet flooding hundreds of Metchosin and Langford residents in their homes with far higher concentrations of smoke from opening burning is considered acceptable. Consider this photo of smoke from multiple land-clearing burns or this photo of smoke from a single 'open burn' in Metchosin. How do they compare to second-hand cigarette smoke in a public building or in a park?

"In most of our communities, certainly in our urban areas, we don't accept contaminated drinking water. So why should we accept polluted air?" said Dr. Michael Brauer, professor at the UBC School of Environmental Health, and co-author of the annual BC State of the Air report, released in December. KEEPING ALBERNI VALLEY'S AIR CLEAN
Alberni Valley News, January 28, 2010

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