Public consultations coming on fire ban

Image of Nick Seebruch
By Nick Seebruch
Public consultations coming on fire ban
Roasting marshmallows on a stick over the open fire.

CORNWALL, Ontario – Mayor Bernadette Clement called for a Special Meeting of Council on Monday, Sept. 16 to address public outcry around a proposed ban of open air wood fires.

On Monday, Sept. 9 at their regular meeting, Cornwall Council voted by a margin of 8-3 to pass a recommendation from Cornwall Fire Services to cease allowing wood fueled outdoor fires in the City.

This news was met with outcry on social media and at least two petitions began to circulate aimed at getting council to reconsider its decision.

Mayor Bernadette Clement stated that it was a mistake that the public was not consulted before hand about this decision and called the special meeting to discuss how the public could be engaged on this topic.

“I want this to be a conversation between neighbours,” she said. “I want to make sure that this council gets this right. If we are going to make any big decisions, I want to get it right.”

Councillor Carilyne Hébert moved that public open houses be held to receive feedback from the public and to educate the public on the proposed by-law.

The CAO Maureen Adams stated that the public consultations would happen as soon as reasonably possible and that their times and locations would be published in local media.

The by-law that would officially ban outdoor wood based fires will not be passed until the public has had a chance to give feedback.

One councillor, Dean Hollingsworth, who voted against the original motion, was skeptical of the intent of the public consultations.

“The way that reads to me. We are going to have public meeting and what we’re going to do is we are going to extol the virtues of the proposed by-law,” he said.

Councillor Glen Grant, who voted for the recommendation to end outdoor wood fires stated that public feedback was no guarantee that the outcome would change.

“In this particular case, we don’t want people to think because there is a public meeting there will be a change in direction,” he said. “There has to be overwhelming information for that to change. What I’m hearing from more is the pro-open fires. It is only in the last couple of days that I’ve heard from people who thanked us for what we did.”

Councillor Claude McIntosh was skeptical that those with breathing problems would come out to voice their side of the issue.

Mayor Bernadette Clement was optimistic however was hopeful that new ideas could come from these proposed open houses.

“People may have some practical solutions, but we don’t know that. We have to ask,” she said.

Terry Muir, one community member who was organizing the resistance to the proposed ban was pleased that the City was open to hearing feedback and had some suggestions.

“I think there is still a place for open air burning,” he said. “The by-law is very clear, it must be a small fire with clean, dry wood. You don’t get a lot of smoke with clean, dry wood. The problem is enforcement and respect. There should be a provision for those with breathing issues so that there can be exemptions in their areas.”

Muir also suggested that By-Law Enforcement’s hours be expanded to relieve some of the reliance on the fire department for enforcing the by-law.

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