The spring burning season in Chilliwack was cut short on Wednesday to ensure reduced smoke in the airshed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Normally burning on agricultural land would be permitted until April 30 but council voted unanimously, at a virtual meeting of council, to authorize the City of Chilliwack fire chief to cancel the remaining portion of the spring 2020 burn season.
Coun. Sue Knott said since this is an “extraordinary situation,” they’re facing, they felt it was important to do whatever possible to have the “best possible airshed” for those battling COVID-19.
“With this virus, people have a lot of trouble breathing,” Knott said.
They’ll be issuing refunds for any burning permits already purchased, and that cost is about $15,000, if the city were to issue refunds for every permit.
“We’re not picking on anyone,” Coun. Jeff Shields said, but rather the idea was “doing the right thing for now.”
Council participated in its first “virtual” meeting with councillors attending via video technology to vote on key issues arising due to COVID-19.
“Due to the potential for smoke from outdoor burning to exacerbate public health issues during the COVID-19 outbreak, council has moved to shorten the spring burning season by one month, ending the spring burning season effective April 1, 2020,” according to city officials.
Temporary policy amendments proposed by the city’s finance department were also approved by council.
As outlined in the staff report, “COVID-19 – Policy Amendments, Outstanding Utility Fee Interest Waiver and Service Interruptions,” council approved several temporary policy amendments, including waiving the interest on overdue utility invoicing (water, sewer and curbside collection), effective immediately, with a reassessment on June 30, 2020.
“Council needs to find ways to react quickly to ensure we are able to best meet the changing needs of our residents during the current pandemic,” said Mayor Ken Popove. “Having a virtual meeting allowed council to discuss timely and critical topics while adhering to social distancing requirements.
“As we work together from afar during this difficult time, council will continue to look for new and innovative ways to keep the business of the city moving forward.”
Go to chilliwack.com/live to watch the video.
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