Thousands of people have now signed online petitions against Saskatoon city council’s move to impose a time limit on when people can use fire pits in their yards.
The largest petition, at change.org, started back in May. It had over 7,000 signatures as of early Thursday morning, with over half of those coming in in the few days following council’s last vote on the issue.
The decision will still have to pass at least one more vote in council in the new year.
If it stands, the move would restrict fire pit use to the hours of 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
With the exception of Edmonton, Winnipeg and the current bylaw in Saskatoon, most Canadian cities with over 200,000 people either ban fire pits outright in urban areas, or limit their use to certain hours of the day.
Consideration key to avoiding complaints in Regina
In Regina, fires have been limited to the hours of noon to 1 a.m. since 2005.
Regina Fire Marshall Randy Ryba told 650 CKOM that enforcement is complaint-driven, with a little consideration seeming to go a long way when it comes to avoiding problems.
“The ones that are burning at all hours, we certainly hear it from the public. The vast majority of complaints are from neighbours,” he said.
Ryba said they get between 100 and 150 complaints a year. He said his team resolves most issues by simply talking to homeowners or issuing a warning, with tickets being a rare last resort.
To the extent tickets were issued, Ryba said it was often in cases where people were burning materials like treated wood or garbage.
“Anybody that’s using it as an incinerator, we ticket immediately. There’s no tolerance for that whatsoever.”
Along with the time limit, Regina’s fire bylaw also mandates that any fire where smoke is bothering others be put out, regardless of the time of day.
In Regina, violating the fire bylaw can lead to a $300 fine.
Clear communication keeps calls down in Calgary
In Calgary, fires are limited to 10 a.m. to midnight during the week, or from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. on weekends.
City of Calgary bylaw superintendent Damian Cole told 650 CKOM that enforcement there is also complaint-driven, with serious safety concerns generally handled immediately by Calgary police or the city fire department and the bylaw team picking up the rest.
Cole said Calgary bylaw officers usually deal with between 20 and 40 calls a year related to fire pits, depending on the weather. He said most of those aren’t due to people bothered by smoke.
“It’s normally to do with partying and it would be more of a noise issue,” he said.
Cole said complaints are usually handled with a warning delivered to a home the day after a call comes in. He said it was also extremely rare to see an issue escalate to the point where a ticket had to be issued.
Cole credited an emphasis on clear communication for helping to limit the number of complaints.
“We’re very good at publicizing this. We send out newsletters. It’s in the local news a lot, especially as we come to a summer period and we get the message out there. So I think that’s probably why we actually receive very few calls regarding this,” he said.
In Calgary, tickets for fire bylaw infractions can vary, with fines going up to $750 for unsafe fires.