It seems hard to argue with the North Dundas Fire Services’ attempts to curb open air burning during a certain time period each year.
The issue is currently before the township’s council, as fire chiefs and their deputies from each station want to impose restrictions between May and October. If farmers need to burn, they would have to do so between November and April.
It’s simple arithmetic according to acting chief Tony Fraser of the Winchester station, as the rate of fire calls increase during the summer months when burn piles have been left to smoulder for days at a time.
Sometimes the call comes from a homeowner aggravated by the putrid smell of smoke lingering in a nearby field, other times it’s a passerby who thinks they have spotted a great blaze, but aren’t sure of the location or actual size of the fire.
No matter the case, local firefighters are bound by law to respond. During the summer, it can be a strain on the service when members are away on holidays or at the cottage.
Plenty of firemen and women also work outside the area, and if the call comes during the day, the resources for response are limited.
Manpower is a major issue, and it’s no different elsewhere in the counties.
Understandably, the plan has been met with derision from the agricultural community, and the backlash was evident during the Dundas Federation of Agriculture’s meeting last week.
For farmers have tended to this land for decades, and they should be allowed to determine right from wrong, and when a burn can happen.
Any imposed regulations should take into consideration the size of the fire. Yes, not all farmers are burning large piles from cleared land at all times. In some cases, it’s simply brush that has been cleaned-up along fence line. In less than an hour, the pile is burned and reduced to ash.
Looking at this more in-depth, it is easy to see that North Dundas got itself into this debate because of its allowance of supplemental burn permits. This meant that if a fire chief visited a site and found that the task needed done, they could approve burning above and beyond an implemented burn ban.
It’s a ludicrous proposition, and thankfully one that administration and firefighters have caught on to. A burn ban should be just that.
What there should be, however, is a clear agreement between the municipality and its agricultural operators.
A heavy-handed implementation of rules is never ideal.
It will only serve to increase the rate of disobedience.