The Town of Qualicum Beach is considering changes to its burn bylaw. — File photo

Town of Qualicum Beach looking to change outdoor burning bylaw

Concern after recent burns affecting residential areas

The Town of Qualicum Beach is looking to amend its outdoor burning bylaw after residents came forward expressing their concerns about the impact of smoke and by-products of fire, according to Thursday’s (May 11) agenda.

Qualicum Beach Fire Department fire chief Darryl Kohse said the town just went through a burn season that saw quite a bit of smoke being emitted, which created a “bit of an issue in our surrounding area.”

One specific outdoor burning that was a cause for concern was at a residence in Eaglecrest where, although a permit was issued, the burning could have affected the “neighbourhood more adversely if there was a change in wind direction,” according to the agenda.

Mayor Teunis Westbroek said the situation in Eaglecrest was scary.

“Later in the evening, the fire was so close to the forest — the tree line — it was scary,” Westbroek said.

Currently allowed in the bylaw, Kohse said, are year-round camp fires, garden refuse fires (non-toxic garden materials gathered from any single lot), agricultural fires and year-round beach fires.

Kohse said the changes to the bylaw would include: allowing only agricultural burns and garden refuse fires on Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) properties; removing fires from estate properties; implementing online permit applications for garden refuse fires and agricultural fires for stricter enforcement; and removing all reference to beach fires since the provincial government has an all-out ban on beach fires along the Qualicum Beach coastline.

Kohse said with this bylaw the town and the fire department are looking to reduce the amount of smoke and emissions put out into the atmosphere.

Coun. Neil Horner said a possible concern for him would be if any reference to beach fires was eliminated from the town’s bylaw, which currently allows beach fires, then the department would have nothing to enforce.

Kohse said that while beach fires fall under provincial enforcement, if the fire becomes a safety issue, the department would put the fire out.

Coun. Bill Luchtmeijer said the bigger issue with outdoor burning is whether or not it’s considered an appropriate function for an urban area with a primarily senior population.

Luchtmeijer said the bylaw could be simplified to say something to the effect that “outdoor burning be prohibited in Qualicum Beach with the exception of agricultural-related fires in ALR lands, with a definition that outdoor burning does not apply to portable gas appliances.”

Council moved that the bylaw be referred to residents’ associations for feedback, and that staff be instructed to draft a question to be included in the service section of the Quality of Life survey.