The District of Mission is in a transitional period with recreational fire pits, but for now, council has settled on moving towards restriction, rather than prohibition of the popular practice under a new bylaw.
The activity is very popular among the 2,355 fire pits owners in the District; but projected population growth, densification in future developments, and health and environmental concerns will likely extinguish the practice in the future, according to a report presented to council by Fire Chief Mark Goddard.
“As we go forward with [densification], there may be a time at which we can start the prohibition process based on the fact that we are cutting down on lot size,” Goddard said. “We will get to that point where the scales will tip, and the anti-fire-pit [people] will outweigh the pro [fire-pit people].”
The new rules will try to provide more a flexible and streamlined process to fire-pit owners, while also moving towards more sustainable models regarding services and the environmental impact on the community.
Goddard is recommending the district return to a non-transferable “lifetime” cost of $40 for registration, rather than having to pay $20 every year.
His updated report follows a previous recommendation from May 12, where an annual fee was proposed to help re-coup $47,000, or one-third of the costs related to Mission Fire Rescue Service attending burning complaints.
All permit purchases will now be made through the application Burnpermits.com, which allows information on the quality of the air shed, how to register, special occasion burn days and the mass notifications to be sent out to users.
All fire pits currently registered with the District will be grandfathered into the new registration list.
Under the new rules, burns will be allowed six days a month – but only when the air-quality venting index is at acceptable levels in the Fraser Valley, which has been deemed a high smoke-sensitive zone.
“Right now there is no limit, and that can be a driver for a lot of our complaint processes,” Goddard said, “They wouldn’t mind it if the neighbour was burning once in a while, but they’re using their pit constantly, and they’re tired of the constant smoke output.
The period of time when yard debris can be burned will be also extended from October to April.
But the concessions on fire pit registration also come with more stringent enforcement for “chronic offenders” who become a nuisance for their neighbours. Ticketing and fines will be issued by the fire department to help re-coup the costs of attending complaint calls.
Goddard said the old bylaw wasn’t tied to the B.C.’s Waste Discharged Regulation, and the new rules will give enforcement more teeth relating to the burning of inappropriate materials.
All councillors voted to pass the bill, with the exception of Coun. Ken Herar. He said the District should be following the environmental standards of Abbotsford, Maple Ridge, Agassiz (townsite) and Chilliwack, where the practice has been outright banned.