2018 - Fire Protection Bylaw Amendments

Background

Recent air quality studies conducted for the Cowichan Valley Regional District have found that particulate matter from wood smoke periodically exceeds air quality objectives.  Particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5) is of greatest concern because it can travel deep into the lungs and become lodged there causing heart and lung disease and premature death. This is of particular concern for children, the elderly and those individuals with other underlying health issues. 

PM2.5 is produced from all types of combustion including wood burning, forest fires and vehicles. Recent studies conducted for the Cowichan Valley have found that 53% of total PM2.5 emissions resulted from open burning, 24% from space heating, 14% from the pulp and paper industry, 6% from mobile sources such as vehicles and 3% from other miscellaneous sources.

2018 - Changes to Fire Protection Bylaw

On September 20th, 2017, North Cowichan Council adopted a number of ammendments to the Municipality’s Fire Protection Bylaw in order to help improve air qualityThe proposed changes will come into effect January 1, 2018 and  help to reduce the most harmful emissions within the municipality's control.  See below for a summary of the ammendments:

  1. Residential open burning will be prohibited within the Urban Containment Boundaries (UCB's) of North Cowichan (with exceptions for registered farms and parcels of land >2 acres).  Burning permits will be issued for properties that are greater than 2 acres in size within the UCB (free of charge).  Click Here to see an interactive map of the UCB's
  2. Residential open burning windows will be extended (September 15 to November 30 and March 15 to April 15) to encourage burning when the Ministry of Environments Venting Index is rated as "Good".  Burning activities will only be allowed when the Provincial Government allows Category 2 or 3 fires.
  3. Large land clearing debris burns (i.e. Category 3 - where piles are greater than 2m high x 3m wide or where multiple piles are being burned concurrently) within the Municipality will be prohibited, unless an air curtain burner is being used.
  4. The use of wood-burning appliances for heating will not be affected other than being prohibited during extended periods where air quality health advisories are in effect.  Air quality advisories are issued by Island Health and have only been in effect for a total of 12 days since 2013. Exemptions are provided for homes where a wood burning appliance is the primary source of heating.
  5. The liability of open fires will be placed onto property owners or occupiers, rather than the individual who lit the fire and;
  6. An incremental fine system has been established to discourage repeat offenders of open burning-related infractions.  The initial fine amount has been lowered to $250 and second and third offences will be $500 and $1000; respectively.
  7. Campfires (less than 24 inches in diameter) will still be allowed, provided a fire ban is not in effect for the Coastal Fire Zone.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are air quality advisories and how often are they in place?

Air quality advisories are issued by Island Health when pollutant concentrations approach or exceed pre-determined limits.  Air aquality advisories occur infrequently in the Cowichan Valley (they have been in effect for a total of 12 days since 2013).  Click Here to see a list of active air quality advisories in BC and more detailed information on when and why they are issued.

Will North Cowichan subsidize hydro costs during air quality advisories when the use of wood burning appliances is prohibited?

No, air quality advisories occur infrequently and the increase in hydro costs to residents during these times will be minimal.

Why not educate people to burn properly dried, seasoned wood?

An educational campaign will take place if and when the Bylaw is amended, that explains the changes to the Fire Protection Bylaw, including ways to “burn smart” when it comes to wood burning appliances.  Additionally, staff from the Municipality sit on the local "Airshed Protection Roundtable" working group which intends to focus thier efforts on increasing public education efforts in relation to air quality in the near future.

I have an acreage located within the UCB, why can’t I have an open burn?

Owners of larger parcels of land (2+ acres) within the UCB will be able to get a permit to burn for the purposes of reducing the fire hazard on their property. An exemption will be provided for burning done as part of “normal farm practices” as per provisions in the Right to Farm Act

How do I find out if my property is located within the Urban Containment Boundary (UCB)?

Visit: www.northcowichan.ca/UCB. All land parcels located inside the black borders shown on the map are within the UCB.

I live within the Urban Containment Boundary. If I can’t burn my yard waste, what do I do with it?

Yard waste is accepted year-round, free of charge, at any CVRD Recycling Centre (including Bings Creek). Additionally, many local businesses can be contracted for chipping or removal of yard waste.

What about the pollution from vehicles and industrial sources?

Recent air quality studies show that 14% of PM2.5 emissions come from the pulp and paper industry and only 6% come from the transportation sector.  The proposed changes to the Fire Protection Bylaw are focused on open burning and space heating as these sources account for 77% of PM2.5 emissions.

Can I have small fires or campfires in my backyard?

Unless there is a complete campfire ban issued by the provincial Wildfire Management Branch, then yes, campfires (less than 0.5m3) will still be allowed throughout Municipal boundaries, including within the Urban Containment Boundary (UCB). Also, outside the UCB, individual open burn piles smaller than 2x3 meters will still be permitted.

Are rebates available for the conversion to lower emission stoves?

Yes, there is currently a Woodstove Exchange Program in place through the CVRD that North Cowichan residents may qualify for. Rebates of up to $350 may be available for exchanging an old, uncertified woodstove (pre-1994). Newer woodstoves can reduce emissions by up to 87%! For more information, check out: http://www.cleartheaircowichan.ca