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Council Stops Bylaw Banning Residential Campfires

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Council was hesitant to pass a bylaw this week that would completely ban residential campfires at Whistler homes.

Instead they asked Fire Chief Bruce Hall to rewrite parts of the new bylaw to allow some backyard campfires.

Hall was slightly worried about council’s reticence to the ban.

"I think I have a little bit of concern especially when it’s dry," said Hall after Monday’s council meeting.

"However, we still have within the bylaw the right to stop any type of open burning within the municipality, which would include that type of backyard campfire.

"The concern that we’ve had in the past is that some people are really good (with their campfires) and others aren’t."

Some councillors balked at the total ban, which would have allowed campfires in designated sites like private campgrounds, but not at residences.

"This is very good timing, given what we’ve gone through in the last few weeks," said Councillor Caroline Lamont.

But still, she said, many people have built fireplaces in their backyard out of cement and bricks and these are relatively safe.

Just because you have a few reckless people out there with backyard campfires doesn’t mean you can ban everyone from enjoying one, said Lamont.

Councillor Nick Davies echoed her concerns, questioning the definition of "open burning."

"It bothers me that we’re potentially removing the ability to have a little fire and roast some hot dogs in the backyard," he said.

Even with the rewrite to allow residential campfires, the fire department will still retain the right to shut down backyard campfires if conditions are not safe.

Hall said the bylaw was targeted not so much at the residents using cement campfires or barbecues, but rather the people who have fashioned a ring-of-stones type campfire in an unsafe site.

Hall said there are a few things to consider before striking a match, such as:

• make sure the soil underneath the campfire is a good mineral soil and not peat;

• make sure there are no tree roots under the site of the fire in case heat travels along them and ignites brush or surrounding forest.

• keep the fire in an open area away from trees;

• keep the fire small;

• clear any brush or pine needles from the campfire area and:

• don’t have a campfire when conditions are dry.

Once rewritten and approved the new fire bylaw will replace an 11-year-old bylaw and will have a number of changes.

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