North Cowichan Considers Regulations to Improve Air Quality

(July 26, 2017, North Cowichan, BC) North Cowichan Council is considering changes to the Fire Protection Bylaw that will help to reduce harmful emissions that can cause serious health problems. The bylaw proposes that residential open burning be prohibited within the Urban Containment Boundary (UCB), with exceptions for registered farms and properties greater than 2 acres.

Properties within the UCB that qualify for open burning will be required to obtain a permit, free of charge, from the municipality prior to burning. The permitting process will provide property owners with information on how to burn properly and, if required, will aid with enforcement action. 

The regulations also include elimination of the current open burning windows (March 15 April 15 and October 15 November 15). This will allow open burning year-round on days when the Ministry of Environments Venting Index is Good and when the provincial government allows category 2 or 3 fires.

These changes, if implemented, will create more opportunities for burning when the venting index is good, says Jon Lefebure, Mayor of North Cowichan. By not limiting open burning to a few weeks in the fall and spring, when the venting index is often poor, burning will be more spaced out, resulting in cleaner burns and better air quality. 

Council is expected to give the bylaw third reading at a council meeting on September 6, when they will also hear input from the community. Residents are encouraged to email their input and comments to Additional information can be found at

Additional proposed changes include:

  • Campfires (less than 24 inches in diameter) will still be allowed, provided a fire ban is not in effect for the Coastal Fire Zone.

  • Large land clearing debris burns (i.e. Category 3 - where piles are greater than 2m high x 3m wide or where multiple piles must be burned concurrently) within the municipality will be prohibited unless an air curtain burner is being used. Exemptions will be provided for registered farms for burning done as part of normal farm practices.

  • Regulations on the use of woodstoves are not proposed, but following the City of Duncan and Island Healths lead, Council is considering limiting their use during air quality advisories, which happen infrequently and should not be confused with the venting index. There have been a total of 12 days since 2013 when air quality advisories have been in effect for the Cowichan Valley (they are issued by Island Health). Exemptions will be provided for homes where a wood burning appliance is the only source of heating.

Is your property located in the Urban Containment Boundary? 

The municipalitys public mapping tool shows the UCB in all three areas; Chemainus, Crofton and South End. Follow these steps to see if your property is within the UCB:

  1. Check the box to agree with the terms & conditions and click OK
  2. Click on Layer List (the first blue button on the bottom menu)
  3. Check and expand Development Services
  4. Check Managing Growth

All properties inside the black borders are located within the UCB.