Resident asks for backyard campfire ban

One Vernon man has asked the city to consider banning backyard campfires and backyard wood-burning appliances

One Vernon man has asked the city to consider banning backyard campfires and backyard wood-burning appliances.

Gary Butt appeared as a delegation before Vernon council, stating his request stems from an issue in his East Hill neighbourhood.

“My neighbour built a fire pit in his backyard and it’s approximately 11.25 meters from my bedroom,” said Butt. “When he burns wood, the smoke and ash rises, as his house is located on a hill below me, so that smoke and ash rises, enters our backyard and comes into my house through the windows.”

Butt said when his neighbour is burning in his backyard, he can’t use his own yard because of the ash and smoke. The neighbour, he said, does not light fires when it rains or there’s a fire ban in place.

Along with the smoke, Butt is concerned for his family’s health. His wife suffers from bronchitis, he said, and his daughter-in-law is asthmatic, and both conditions get irritated when the burning begins.

Butt said he’s asked people why they would want a backyard fire pit, and he said the answer he mainly receives is to be able to enjoy their property and to roast wieners and marshmallows.

“You can go to an outdoors store and for $100, you can buy a gas-operated campfire which replicates an actual campfire,” he said. “You can cook marshmallows, cook hot dogs and enjoy the great outdoors in your backyard without emitting the smoke, ash and other irritants that affect other people.”

If council won’t ban backyard campires, Butt asked that the city restrict them to city parks so the city can regulate the number of campfires operated, or restrict campfires to acreage properties, where there is a greater distance between residences.

Mayor Rob Sawatzky told Butt that council does not deal with delegations on the same agenda, that time will be needed for council to do its due diligence on the matter.

As a former physician, though, Sawatzky agreed with Butt that open burning in a backyard can be a health risk.

“A lot of young asthmatics that we see in this valley, when the air quality is quite poor it’ll be related to wood burning,” said Sawatzky. “It’s a frightening experience for parents and children.”

Coun. Juliette Cunningham asked city bylaw enforcement manager Clint Kanester if his office receives a lot of burning complaints.

“We do periodically get complaints about smoke and general use,” said Kanester. “They are investigated but I don’t have the exact numbers with me.”

Kanester promised to have the number available to council at a subsequent meeting.