Saturday, April 20, 2013

Delegation to Woodstock Council, June 7 2012

Your Worship Mayor Sobeski and Members of Council

I am here today to talk to you about Woodstock’s Open Air Burning Policy. 
Having lived most of my life in or near Toronto, I was thrilled to move to Woodstock two and a half years ago, one of the reasons being cleaner air. 
We are a family of four.  Two of my family members have respiratory-type allergies, and one of those two also suffers from asthma.

I live in a new subdivision, where there is a lot of building going on.  At the present time there are two backyard fire pits that I can see, and smell, from my own house.
I am horrified at the thought that more and more homes around me could be granted open air burning permits by the City of Woodstock, and subject my home and family to  smoke.

As I understand the legislation:

First, there is the Ontario Fire Code, which states:  (1)  Open-air burning shall not be permitted unless approved, [except for barbecues].
Here in Woodstock, approval is granted through the Open Air Burning Policy. Let’s look at it.

2.2 tells you that you can apply for a permit:  you make application for a permit from the Fire Chief
(a) tells you when you can burn:  between 4 PM and Midnight .
(b) tells you what you can burn:  charcoal, briquette or wood
(c) limits the size of your fire pit   two feet by two feet
(j) tells you that you can’t burn under certain weather conditions:  wind speed more than15 k,rainy or foggy weather or during a smog alert

What this actually means:  you buy or build a pit the right size, you call the fire department to come and approve it, they grant you the permit, and any fine day you can light a fire in an area of 2 x 2 feet – in which you can get a pretty good blaze going – and keep it burning for 8 hours!

Why do we care?  Because during the time you are burning, you are subjecting your own home, your neighbours’ properties, and the whole community to smoke and  the toxic byproducts of the burning.

I supplied you with information from the Canadian Lung Association.  I hope you will read and re-read the marked passages, concerning Open burning:  human health, what’s in the smoke, and chimineas.

I am sure you are all familiar with this brochure:  Breathe Easy:  City of Woodstock Smoking in Workplaces and Public Places Bylaw.    The first paragraph reads:

“The public has the right to breathe clean air.  Smoke free workplaces and public places protect the public and employees from involuntary exposure to second hand smoke.”

If we are willing to protect “the public” and “employees” from second-hand cigarette smoke, why are we not willing to protect the most vulnerable - children and seniors – as well as everyone else, on their own property and in their own homes, from recreational fire smoke?  And what about the public using the wonderful green spaces that Woodstock has to offer: the parks, playgrounds, sports fields, golf courses, and the trail system, to name a few.  Most of these are adjacent to residential areas, and therefore vulnerable to contamination from “recreational burning”.

This brochure tells me that if I were to light a cigarette here in City Hall, for example,
I could be convicted under the bylaw and subject to a fine of up to $5,000.00.
This document, the Open-Air Burning Policy, tells me how to get a permit to subject my neighbourhood to hours of smoke and toxic byproducts.

What’s wrong here?  Does the left hand know what the right hand is doing?

In closing, I would like to return to the Open Air Burning Policy.  2.2 (k) reads:
the owner, occupant or permit holder must take steps to ensure that adjacent properties 
      are protected and that the byproducts of open air burnings do not have a negative impact 
      on persons, pets or the environment.
I suggest to you that said permit holder would need to be in possession of supernatural powers in order to fulfill this requirement.   No permit holder can confine the smoke to his property, nor can he prevent other “persons or pets” in the neighbourhood from inhaling the smoke.

Only you, your worship and members of Council, can offer that protection to the citizens of Woodstock.  And the only way to do it is to STOP recreational burning. 

I thank you for your attention here today, and being an optimist, I thank you in advance for your action on this important matter.


These comments were "received as information".
Sympathy was expressed by Councillors Bes, Northcott, and Talbot.

Councillor Northcott:  "I personally love the smell of wood burning; it doesn't make me sick or anything."

Councillor Talbot:  "I have a wood-burning fireplace in my home in which I burn wood all the time because I love the fire and I love the smell of fire.  I remember younger days at home when we used to be able to rake the leaves to the curb at the side of the road and burn them on the side of the road and everybody seemed to go out and do that and enjoy that."

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