With spring in the air, the Municipality of North Cowichan is reminding residents that new regulations restrict open burning on properties within the urban containment boundary.
The new regulations, enacted in September, state that any open burning, excluding campfires, occurring during the spring open-burning times, which are restricted to between March 15 and April 15, is entirely prohibited on any property within the UCB that is less than two acres.
A burning permit is required to burn yard waste on any property within the UCB that is two acres or greater, and burning can only occur when the provincial venting index is considered “good”.
North Cowichan has significantly restricted open burning within the urban containment boundaries because these areas have the highest density of homes and businesses that can be adversely affected by smoke.
There are approximately 195 properties within the UCB that are greater than two acres, and are eligible to receive a burning permit.
Burning permits are free of charge and can typically be obtained from North Cowichan within a day.
“Recent studies have found that total particulate matter less than 2.5 microns is the air quality contaminant of concern in the Cowichan region, and the leading cause of these emissions is open burning,” said Mayor Jon Lefebure.
“Accordingly, residents are encouraged to use other means of disposing of yard waste to reduce the volume of fine particulate matter being discharged into the air.”
Instead of burning to clear out yard waste, North Cowichan is encouraging its residents to compost at home, use a wood chipper, or take their yard waste, free of charge, to one of the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s recycling facilities. Council gave the final reading to its new fire protection bylaw in September.
The new bylaw stipulates that the spring open-burning time is restricted to between March 15 and April 15, and the fall open-burning times will be extended an extra month and will now be between Sept. 15 and Nov. 30.
Any individual found to be burning outside of the requirements, including burning without a permit, in an area where open burning is not allowed or when the venting index is not good, is liable for a fine under the Provincial Open Burning Smoke Control Regulation of up to $200,000, and North Cowichan’s fire protection bylaw calls for an initial fine of $250, $500 for a second offence and $1,000 for a third offence.
A staff report at the time the new bylaw was being considered indicated that extending the open-burning window in the fall will improve opportunities to burn with the proper venting conditions and distribute emissions more evenly in the absence of a complete ban on open burning.
The new bylaw will also allow for more municipal controls over what is burned and increased penalties for non-compliance.
Natasha Horsman, North Cowichan’s communications manager, said she has heard of no complaints registered with the municipality last weekend after open burning was spotted in a number of locations in the Valley.
“But we suspect some people are tempted to begin their spring yard work before open burning is allowed in North Cowichan,” she said.
“We’re working hard to get the word out about the regulations and work proactively with property owners to ensure they know the rules and comply with them.”