No extra burning days in Chilliwack to remove windfall

Council voted for a longer spring burning season, until May 16, followed by a shorter season come fall

Farmers and ag contractors in Ryder Lake and Chilliwack will not be getting any additional outdoor burning days for 2016

Chilliwack farmers and ag contractors will not be getting any additional outdoor burning days for 2016.

Council considered the request at Tuesday’s meeting, in the wake of a wicked windstorm that brought down 75 trees across Chilliwack last fall.

What they’ll be getting instead is a longer spring outdoor burning season, running until May 16, followed by a shorter season come fall.

Ultimately it will be the same number of days, said Mayor Sharon Gaetz.

They’ll revert back to normal in 2017.

“Council has made it clear we wish to see burning reduced in our community,” said Gaetz at the council meeting.

The mayor receives “numerous” complaints about it, when fire smoke is visible on local hillsides, given the sensitive air shed issue.

The decision to extend spring season made sense, acknowledged councillors Sam Waddington and Chris Kloot in council chambers.

An extra month added to the spring season was supportable, said Coun. Waddington.

But he’s also looking forward to alternative solutions, like chipping rather than burning, and “more prohibitive” fines for outdoor burning, under Mayor Gaetz’s leadership.

A severe windstorm that hit Chilliwack that brought down trees in November and left many rural and agricultural property owners, particularly in Ryder Lake, with fallen trees, unearthed rootballs, and branch debris.

Ag operators under the current rules, are given only four months per year to burn windfall debris and brush, to remove fire fuel from their properties.

But there is no outdoor burning permitted on urban residential land, commercial or industrial land.

“From the information we get from Fraser Health, people in the Fraser Valley have increased rates of respiratory illness,” said Gaetz.

People are also becoming much less tolerant about any kind of smoke in the air, she said.

Outdoor burning on ag land is a touchy topic in Chilliwack. Despite having a shorter outdoor burning period than communities that allow year-round burning, Chilliwack officials still received a whopping 287 burn complaints last year.

Coun. Waddington said he discovered during a ride-along he took with the fire department that sometimes the stipulations of burning permits were not being followed.

Sometimes it was fires that were too large, or they were burning prohibited materials.

Mayor Gaetz asked staff to come back with a recommendation for a higher outdoor burning permit fee, which is $25 under the current rates.

“That’s not a true reflection of the costs,” she said. “I would like to see a higher burn permit fee.”

Most people would rather there was no subsidization of fees by non-users.

“People assume there is no outdoor burning around the Lower Mainland but Delta and Surrey have year-round burning,” said Gaetz.

In that way Chilliwack is “further ahead” than its neighbours.

Chilliwack will have to eventually seek “new ways” of dealing with waste. Maybe chipping will one day become cheaper if operators are no longer able to burn.

“We’re so used to burning that we don’t think of the effect it has on our neighbours,” said Mayor Gaetz.

“I think we’ll have to change our practices, and get away from burning.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Big Bar Landslide saw long awaited blasting this week

Pressure has been on senior governments working with First Nations to remove blockage for months

COLUMN: Trying to look forward while looking back

Reader suggests re-running a 2015 Times column after recent racism towards Indigenous people

Two prolific offenders from Alberta lead RCMP on chase across Fraser Valley

Men first reported in Chilliwack ending with allegedly stolen vehicle in an Abbotsford pond

Chilliwack physiotherapist charged with sexual assault

Mounties urging other potential victims to make contact

Former employee of Chilliwack senior care home calls working there ‘a horror show’

Workers are paid below industry standard at all Retirement Concepts facilities

VIDEO: B.C. senior recalls ‘crazy’ wartime decision to grab bear cub from den

Henry Martens – now 96 – says he was lucky to be alive after youthful decision to enter a bear’s den

‘A bag full of garbage every 15 metres’: Surrey industrial area filled with trash

Local workers looking to recruit business, raise funds to help dispose of litter

Cheapest in B.C.: Penticton gas prices dip below $1 per litre

Two stores in Penticton have gas below a dollar.

Brand new Tesla crashes into Surrey store front, mounts gas line

Driver was heading to the Autoplan store, straight off the lot

Loans or gifts? Judge rules woman must pay B.C. man back $7K

B.C. judge rules that woman must pay back more than $7,000 in advanced funds to man

VIDEO: Outpouring of worldwide support for bullied Australian boy

Australian actor Hugh Jackman said ‘you are stronger than you know, mate’

Mugging with airsoft gun results in Langley school lockdown

Police found the weapon and a stolen phone later

Forest industry protests northern B.C. caribou protection deal

B.C. Mining Association supports federal-Indigenous plan

Youth-led report calls on B.C. government to create plan to end youth homelessness

There are no dedicated programs for youth homelessness at federal, provincial level, report says

Most Read