The fire pit debate will burn on for another month in Saskatoon.
City council was unable to consider a final vote on backyard blaze time restrictions Monday, as Ward 1 Coun. Darren Hill and Ward 10 Coun. Zach Jeffries denied a third reading of the bylaw.
However, the time limits that will be voted on at April’s council meeting will be different than what’s been considered since December.
Councillors voted 7-4 in favour of extending the proposed time limit from 5 p.m. – 11 p.m. to a 2 p.m. start time.
Ward 7 Coun. Mairin Loewen, who brought forward the amendment, said it was a compromise to provide a protected time for those with health issues while still allowing people to enjoy afternoon fires.
Mayor Charlie Clark joined Loewen in supporting the change, along with councillors Hilary Gough, Bev Dubois, Sarina Gersher, Ann Iwanchuk and Randy Donauer. Councillors Hill and Jeffries voted against every time limit proposed, along with Troy Davies and Cynthia Block.
If the bylaw amendment passes in April, the fire department would have the power to issue a $250 fine to people who burn outside of the approved hours.
Before delaying the final vote, Hill said the city wasn’t approaching to the issue properly.
“We are going down the wrong path with this,” he told his colleagues.”I see no reason to create this additional layer until we see the powers we can actually utilize that exist within our bylaw right now.”
Hill pointed to Fire Chief Morgan Hackl’s own comments at past meetings, where he noted the fire department could have done better in addressing more than 236 complaints in 2017.
The Ward 1 representative also pinpointed 147 of the complaints last year were lodged between 5 p.m. and 11 p.m., the original proposed time limit.
Coun. Davies said he wouldn’t support any time limits, because he didn’t believe it was a backyard fire issue.
“This is about neighbours not talking to each other in a respectful way,” he said. “If we restrict fires, it will be someone cranking their music and there will be noise complaints.”
However, Mayor Clark noted many residents who are against fire pit restrictions haven’t listened to the experiences of the people who have come to council with health concerns.
“If you don’t live that reality it’s harder to understand it,” he said. “We don’t all live on a 10-acre lot, we live together in a city.”
Fire pit registry put on back-burner
As quickly as it flared up last week, debate over a possible fire pit registry system was stamped out by councillors Monday.
Several of them voiced concerns over the potential workload for the fire department in creating, maintaining and enforcing the free permitting system.
Fire Chief Hackl said they believed the registry could be operated within existing funding and staffing, but the assessment could change depending on how many fire pits were registered.
“We really have no idea how many fire pits are out there,” he said.
The report on a potential registry was received as information, but no action was taken by councillors.