Council votes to ban outdoor wood fires

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By Nick Seebruch
Council votes to ban outdoor wood fires
Bonfire (Nick Seebruch/ Seaway News).

CORNWALL, Ontario – In a vote of 8-3 at their meeting on Monday, Sept. 9 Cornwall City Council voted to put an end to wood fueled outdoor fires.

The repeal was based on a recommendation from Cornwall’s Fire Chief Pierre Voisine who explained that a limited number of Open Air burn permits were resulting in a large amount of complaints for his department to deal with.

“The data is telling us that there are issues with the performance of the by-law,” said Voisine. “The majority of complaints against well intended people who follow the by-law, but who create smoke issues in their area and neighbours call in to complain.”

While Voisine admitted that open air wood fires had not resulted in any damage to buildings he did recommended that the by-law allowing open air burn permits be repealed an replaced with one that only allowed fuel based open air fires.

“Fuel based appliances are now available at reasonable cost,” he said. “I suggest we roll back wood based open air fires in the City, and let residents use fuel based systems without a permit.”

Councillor Claude McIntosh endorsed the repeal and argued that this was a quality of life issue for some residents.

“I’ve received several complaints from the City from people with breathing complaints. Some are having a bonfire using wood the Medical Officer of Health tells us is no good, and they have to close their windows, and I don’t think they should have to do that,” he said.

Voisine said that this repeal would only affect a small number of residents who have permits. He said that there were only 260 permits issued at any given time, and that in 2018, that had resulted in over 60 complaints.

Councillor Eric Bergeron said that the real problem with the by-law was one of enforcement.

“I flew from France to oppose this today,” said Bergeron. “I read the by-law and think this is fine. I think By-Law Enforcement needs to step in a little bit so that the Fire Department is not in the middle of mediating.”

Voisine said that the burning of gas based fuels was not only healthier for people’s breathing, but also for the environment.

“When you are burning fuel based appliances, you are burning with a more efficient and complete combustion. It is a cleaner burn. It is not 100 per cent perfect for the environment, but it is better from whatever incomplete combustion system comes from other materials,” he said.

Councillor Claude McIntosh shot down the enforcement argument, pointing out that many of these complaints would be made when the office is closed.

“We talk about By-Law Enforcement, they close at 5 p.m. how are they going to respond to this,” he said.

Councillors Claude McIntosh, Elaine MacDonald, Syd Gardiner, Carilyne Hébert, Maurice Dupelle, Glen Grant, Todd Bennet and Mayor Bernadette Clement voted in favour, with councillors Dean Hollingsworth, Justin Towndale and Eric Bergeron voting against.

Those who currently have a burn permit, will be grandfathered into the law.

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