A Smokey Issue: Backyard Fires & The Right to Breathe

Hello friends,

In today’s post I’d like to share with you one of the major events going on at City Hall this week. This week at City Hall a report is being delivered to the COmmunity and Protective Services Committee on Open Air Burning or what is more commonly known as Backyard Fires. I have become involved in this issue because a concerned constituent brought the real and harmful impacts of our current legislation to my attention.

This constituent took the time to write to me and made me aware of how many people in our community are negatively affected when their neighbours have a backyard fires. They detailed that they are having trouble breathing when there are backyard fires in their neighbourhood and asked why their neighbours’ right to have a fire supersedes their right to breathe freely, enjoy their own backyard, and sleep with their windows open at night.

Currently Londoners can light backyard fires with only mild restrictions and spread wood smoke across their community with little regard for health and safety of their neighbours. The constituent brought to my attention that the current Nuisance bylaws and fines we have in place do not, in practice, provide enough of a deterrent or means of resolution to be truly effective. They also pointed out that allowing mildly restricted open air burning in a city of London’s size is out of step with the times and is not consistent with other smoking related legislation that London and other medium and large Canadian cities have enacted in recent years

The other key issue here is that under current legislation those that are negatively impacted by wood smoke cannot reasonably predict when others will be conducting open air burning which affects both the health and schedules of many community members to an unreasonable degree. As many courts in recent years have sided with the plaintiffs in cases of homeowners being negatively affecting by open air wood burning it is becoming abundantly clear that it is time for London to follow suit and enact similar restrictions to other Canadian municipalities.

We have a comprehensive report coming forward to the Community and Protective Services Committee today and following this report I will be asking my fellow Councillor Jared Zaifman to Chair the committee for the item as I make a motion that I feel will bring about a fair compromise on this issue that benefits parties on both sides. Through this motion I hope to reach a kind of middle ground where those who enjoy having backyard fires at leisure and those who are negatively impacted by the smoke these fires cause will both be able to breathe easy.

The motion I am tabling calls for a decrease in the number of days that you can burn wood in your backyard. Our current bylaws allow Londoners to burn wood in their backyards seven days a week which is causing breathing and respiratory issues for many. My motion asks for the bylaws to be changed so that Londoners can only burn wood in their backyards on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in order to make the rest of the week smoke free and allow those who are negatively impacted by the resulting smoke to plan accordingly. All of the current safety restrictions would still be imposed and am I not proposing any changes to the fire, health, and safety protocols that are already in place.

Share Your Thoughts

As always I would love to hear your feedback on this important issue. Please feel free to email me with any comments, questions, or concerns you may have. Your opinions matter and I want to hear them. I do my best in all of my council proceedings to directly represent you and your concerns to the fullest extent possible.

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