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Wellesley to decide on backyard fire pits in new bylaw

Wellesley to decide fate of backyard fire pits in new bylaw

A group of Wellesley residents submitted a petition to council on Tuesday asking they be permitted to have small campfires in their backyards, staking an opposite opinion to a letter to council from another resident.

William Slack sent a letter asking that fire pits be banned in residential areas of Wellesley, citing the effects of smoke on the environment and people’s health as concerns.

Billie Wainwright appeared on behalf of the residents in support of allowing fire pits in Wellesley.

“It’s a big issue for us. We do it a lot throughout the summer. I think you can agree if you walk down the streets of Wellesley during July and August that it’s guaranteed you’ll see friends and family sitting out in their backyard,” Wainwright said.

She said council should consider all the people in Wellesley who support having small camp fires instead of banning them, as suggested by Slack.

“I think 90 per cent of the time people are very considerate in Wellesley. That’s why we come to the small community is to be able to do things like that. We don’t live in the big cities because those things are banned there. These are things we like to keep in a tight-knit community,” Wainwright said.

Wellesley fire chief Andrew Lillico looked at the applicable legislation to draft up a bylaw. The Ontario Fire Code specifically bans an open burn in a community and the only way it can be approved is if the fire chief provides an exemption, he said.

Lillico and chief administrative officer Rik Louwagie researched the issue by looking at adjoining communities and brought in the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office.

“[They] strongly recommended that we adopt an open burning bylaw for the Township of Wellesley because without the bylaw if we had a non compliance we had no way to enforce it,” Lillico said.

The bylaw was created based on documentation, best practices, and recommendations from the fire marshal’s office.

If approved, most residential homes in Wellesley will be permitted to have small campfires, permitted they follow the guidelines in the bylaw.  For example, a contained site campfire is defined as “a circle of stones, bricks, concrete or truck or tire rim, of a maximum diameter of 60 cm (24 inches) and includes manufactured non-combustible outdoor fire containers.”

There will be a buffer zone in the bylaw that places restrictions on how close to your neighbour’s property you can build a fire. The smoke issue, as brought forward by Slack, can’t be controlled by the fire department, as it’s actually under Ministry of the Environment jurisdiction.

The open-air fire bylaw will be brought to council at their Dec. 7 meeting.

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