Open air burning in Central Saanich may soon be weather-dependent.
Draft guidelines for a renewed open burning bylaw in Central Saanich see the bylaw – unchanged since it was adopted in 1993 – adjusted so that burning – yard waste, open air or incinerator fires – can only be done on days with a good or fair ‘venting index,’ a forecast model indicating when the atmosphere is more likely to disperse the smoke.
“If the cloud ceiling is very low, there’s no opportunity for the smoke to go up into the atmosphere, it actually moves horizontally through the community and that’s what is a contributing factor to complaints to the fire department,” said Central Saanich Fire Chief Chris Vrabel.
Vrabel said the province made a recommendation to municipalities in 2017 that they address the health impacts of wood smoke – a pollutant that creates a significant amount of fine particulate matter and contains many of the same substances found in tobacco smoke.
Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor said community health is a top concern.
“We’re looking at air quality. We’ve had, over the years, a lot of people identify that air quality matters more and more to them. People are more cognizant of it,” Windsor said. “We have to balance the needs of our urban residents with our agricultural residents. Agriculture is very important to the District but we want to make sure that the practices on agricultural land are good.”
Windsor said council wants to “bring [the bylaw] up to modern standards with modern resources and tools to address modern concerns.”
As it is, the bylaw allows for open air burning on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays until noon.
After community consultation earlier this year, the new draft guidelines say that all open air burning – with the exception of camp fires – require a permit from the fire department and will only be allowed on days when the provincial venting index is ‘good’ or ‘fair.’
While open air burning may be limited by weather, the draft bylaw does extend burning through the winter season – allowing burning between Oct. 16 and May 15 .
The proposed bylaw will be presented to Central Saanich council this fall for consideration. To review the draft guidelines and provide feedback, visit letstalkcentralsaanich.ca.