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Thursday April 9th, 2015

Posted at 2:00pm

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Essex Fire and Rescue is reminding residents to call before setting open air fires, after Town Council passed a revised open air burning by-law that specifically regulates the setting of fires within the municipality.

“Under the revised by-law, open air burning is prohibited in the municipality unless a permit has been obtained in advance and a set of precautions are strictly observed,” says Fire Chief Rick Arnel.

Open air fires include backyard bonfires, some fires set in fire bowls or fire pits, and fires set by farmers for the disposal of vegetable matter or vegetation on farm lands.

Cooking fires using domestic barbecues or permanent outdoor fireplaces do not require a permit, but camp fires, fires set in outdoor fire containers, and enclosed fires may require a permit if they don’t meet the prescribed limits.

“The size of a camp fire cannot exceed 2 feet long by 2 feet wide by 2 feet high,” says Chief Arnel. “Fire bowls, fire pits and chimineas measuring two feet in diameter or less should meet this requirement and are permitted, provided they are placed at least 15 feet away from property lines and at least 10 feet away from combustible structures or objects.”

“The size of an open air fire cannot exceed 3 feet long by 3 feet wide by 3 feet high and it must not be set less than 21 feet from buildings, structures, hedges, fences, roadways, overhead wires, property lines, or vegetation. These precautions are for the safety and well-being of property owners and their neighbours.”

The Town of Essex has regulated the setting of open air fires since 2001, but Chief Arnel says the fire department frequently deals with complaints from people who are bothered or concerned about their neighbour’s backyard fire. If smoke adversely affects neighbouring properties, causes annoyance or irritation to adjacent properties, or decreases visibility on any highway or roadway, the fire must be extinguished.

“The new by-law provides greater clarity on permissible fires, like camp fires, but also extends enforcement powers to local police officers,” says Chief Arnel.

The minimum set fine for starting an open air fire without a permit or failing to comply with the by-law is $150. In addition, residents are liable for the full cost of deploying equipment and labour in the event that an open air fire spreads. Residents may also be responsible for any damage to property or injury to persons.

“There is still no fee for a burn permit; it’s simply a matter of making a phone call,” says Chief Arnel.

When planning an open air fire, contact Essex Fire and Rescue Services during business hours by calling 519-776-7132 on Monday, Thursday and Friday. On Tuesday and Wednesday, call 519-776-6476.

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