"You Can't Have Backyard Fires": Pembroke Decision Sparks Warning

FireGeneric

Pembroke's Fire Chief is hoping the confusion over whether backyard fires are allowed in the city is finally over now.

City Council officially voted down the idea this week, and Chief Dan Herback says it's critical residents know fires are not allowed.

"You can't have backyard fires", Chief Herback said.

"When you do have a backyard fire, and you're prohibited, the fire department or the by-law enforcement officers will be at your home, and you could be fined for this", he added.

The fine can be $250 for breaking the by-law.

Herback says firefighters were kept busy all summer with calls about outdoor fires, mostly in the form of complaints that the fires were a nuisance to neighbours.

Those responsible for the fires had often mistakenly thought Council had changed the rules, when, in fact, the issue was only being debated by City Council.

"A lot of people, believing that changes had already been made to the by-law.  We did our best to get our message out that there hadn't been any changes", Herback added.

The only exceptions where fires are allowed are on properties that back onto the Ottawa, Muskrat or Indian Rivers at ground level.

Even in those cases, residents need to apply for a permit.

Council Decision

In voting down the idea of recreational outdoor fires on Tuesday night, some council members expressed concerns about people with medical conditions being annoyed by smoke, and also with the density of some of Pembroke's neighbourhoods.

There was a suggestion that applications for burning permits could be reviewed on an individual basis, dependent on several factors such as proximity to other homes.

Coun. Brian Abdallah proposed a one-year pilot project, to be administered using rules drawn from fire by-laws in other Ontario communitites, such as Orillia, which set out stipulations based on wind speeds, property size, and other factors

But in the end, the Abdallah proposal was defeated by a vote of 4-2.

Instead, Council voted unanimously to explore the idea of setting up public fire pits in the Riverside Park area.

City staff will draw up a report with recommendations for Council to consider.