Township campfires a burning debate

Campfires being allowed in a pair of Spallumcheen zones was a hot topic of debate at Monday’s regular township council meeting.

Campfires being allowed in a pair of Spallumcheen zones was a hot topic of debate at Monday’s regular township council meeting.

Before council was a bylaw amendment that would allow campfires in R1 residential and R5 modular home zones.

The township’s existing bylaw prohibits campfires, stating they fall under an open burning definition.

“The bylaw amendment before you includes the definition of a campfire,” said Cindy Graves, the township’s deputy corporate officer.

The new bylaw defines a campfire as being no larger than 0.5 metres in height and width; be contained in a non-combustible base with edging, to be used for cooking, recreational or ceremonial purposes; burning dry untreated wood only; and not be lit if a campfire ban is in effect.

The amendment also clears up the definition of smoke and makes every person who wishes to ignite a campfire responsible for checking the Environment Canada ventilation index in regards to the smoke control forecast in B.C.

A competent person must be present and overseeing the fire at all times.

“I think we’re being a little naive to ask people to check the venting index before starting a fire,” said Coun. Andrew Casson. “I’ve never checked it.”

Coun. Christine Fraser said the bylaw was originally changed to deny open burning in the two zones, and campfires got lumped in with open burning.

Fraser called for a ban on campfire burning between Oct. 15 and June 1, but rescinded her motion to have it included in the amendment.

Coun. Joe Van Tienhoven thinks it’s ludicrous that the City of Vernon allows campfires in similar zones.

“We’re a rural community,” said Van Tienhoven. “It doesn’t make sense to me that somebody in Vernon can have a wiener roast and somebody on a one-acre lot in Spallumcheen can’t.”

Coun. Todd York spoke against the bylaw amendment, stating he and his family have twice been evacuated from their homes because of potential fire danger.

“Fire has no discrimination about property lines or values,” said York. “Once it’s loose, it’s loose. People who have breathing difficulties shouldn’t have to leave their homes.

“It would be disconcerting for me to live in a place where my neighbour didn’t care, went ahead and started a fire, and we as a community said ‘Nah, it’s okay. You have to go out of town on weekends because these guys are going to have a fire.”’

McLeod subdivision residents Chris and Cheryl Heidt wrote a letter to council expressing their opposition to the proposed amendment.

“We have been subjected numerous times to smoke, ash and even embers in our yard from neighbouring campfires during previous opening burning seasons in Spallumcheen,” wrote the Heidts.

“This simply isn’t acceptable in a residential subdivision.”

Council gave three readings to the proposed bylaw amendment with York voting against it.

All persons found in contravention of the townships bylaws could be subject to fines.