People in Saskatoon will have to go to public bonfires to have an afternoon weiner roast in summer 2018.
City council voted 6-5 Monday afternoon to restrict open backyard fires to between the hours of 5 p.m. and 11 p.m., in a move Mayor Charlie Clark called a “compromise.”
“There are a number of residents where this has an effect on quality of life and health,” he said after the meeting.
“We also hear from many, many people who enjoy backyard fires.”
The vote comes after months of debate over the balance between those who like using their backyard fire pits, and others whose health issues are aggravated by smoke.
Charlotte Garrett has spoken to council on several occasions about the issue. She told reporters she gets headaches and her lungs close up when neighbours light a fire.
“We also have many children (in the city) who are asthmatic, and they just get sicker and nobody seems to care,” she said.
Garrett told council her own family won’t visit her in Saskatoon, since backyard fires negatively affect their children. She said she has to see them in either Vancouver or Ottawa, where wood fires are banned.
Mayor Charlie Clark supported the 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. restriction on fires along with councillors Sarina Gersher, Hilary Gough, Bev Dubois, Ann Iwanchuk and Mairin Loewen.
Ward 1 Coun. Darren Hill was among those opposed to the restrictions. He said the city already has bylaws on the books to deal with “nuisance” fires.
“I think creating a solution to a problem, where we already have a solution and we’re not using that tool, is not the best approach at this time,” he said.
Councillors Troy Davies, Cynthia Block, Randy Donauer and Zach Jeffries joined Hill on voting against the time restrictions.
The current bylaw allows the Saskatoon Fire Department to issue tickets to homeowners who do things like burning treated wood or garbage in their firepits.
Fire Chief Morgan Hackl said only one fine was issued in 2016, but they’re planning to ramp up enforcement in 2018.
“Especially if we’ve been to a property before, we can’t just be giving a warning,” he said.
A violation under the backyard firepit bylaw includes a first-time penalty of $250.
Once the new time restrictions are brought into effect sometime in 2018, people burning before 5 p.m. or after 11 p.m. will also be subject to the fine.
Hackl did note the enforcement of the bylaw would be driven by complaints, rather than firefighters patrolling neighbourhoods,
Council to examine ban on wood-burning firepits in new developments
City council also voted 9-2 in favour of having administration study whether the city could ban wood-burning firepits in new communities.
The move, proposed by Coun. Hill, would allow people with sensitive lungs to buy homes in areas they know would be free of wood fires.
“We would now end up with neighbourhoods city-wide that will have no wood-burning firepits in the back,” he said.
“This gives people a choice now.”
Mayor Clark and Coun. Gersher voted against the study.
Another motion to explore phasing out wood-burning firepits in existing properties failed 8-3, with only Coun. Iwanchuk, Dubois and Gough in favour.
“That brings us to the end of 2017’s debate on firepits,” Mayor Clark said in closing.
“Stay tuned, we probably will be discussing this again in 2018.”
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the motion to examine phasing out wood-burning firepits in existing properties passed 9-2. In fact, the motion failed 8-3.