Open burning within city limits is being restricted for seven days to help with temperature inversion conditions currently plaguing the city.
Councillors voted Monday to suspend the city’s own burning bylaw in order to undertake the restriction. Residents are being asked to refrain from burning in backyards or using wood stoves unless they are the sole source of heat.
Instituting a restriction would reduce degradation of the Valley’s air during a stagnant air period, councillors said.
The initiative was spawned after the Ministry of Environment and Vancouver Island Health Authority issued an air quality advisory for the Alberni Valley on Monday. A stagnant air mass over the Island is causing high concentrations of fine particulates in the air, the advisory noted.
The advisory covered an area 15 kilometres in diameter of Port Alberni City Hall and was to last for at least three days. No new fires may be started and no additional material may be added to existing fires under such an advisory.
Mayor John Douglas asked Port Alberni Fire Chief Tim Pley about the logistics of the advisory. Pley replied that the advisory only called for the voluntary cessation of wood stove use unless it is the sole source of heat in a house.
The provincial advisory is fine but hollow, Pley said. Provincial advisories have no force or effect within the city and the city’s burning bylaw takes precedence, Pley added. As well, the province has an outdoor burning fire regulation that is covered by the advisory, but the city’s bylaw trumps that too because it is more stringent, Pley said.
Coun. Jack McLeman asked how the restriction would be enforced. Pley replied that the fire department is usually the first line of action for smoke complaints.
McLeman also suggested that council shouldn’t be reacting in knee-jerk fashion to such situations. Pley replied that a bylaw review is in order.