By Jamie Rieger
County fire guardians can not issue a burn permit if they know that there is prohibited material is among the items being burned and that includes plastic garbage bags, according to the county fire chief.
County ratepayer Stacy Harty attended the Nov. 9 county council meeting to find out exactly what are the county’s policies in regards to permitted burns after being declined a permit on Nov. 1.
“When it comes to burn permits and above-ground incinerators, I want some clarifications of the rules,” said Harty, who included photos of his burn pit in his presentation to council.
Harty said that on one morning that had damp, calm conditions he contacted the County for a fire permit, but was denied.
“On Nov. 1, I contacted the county for a permit. It was a wet, soggy morning, but I was denied because there were plastics in my pit,” he said.
County fire chief Dustin McGarry said he had offered to inspect the pit.
“I have no problem with the county coming out to check the pit,” said McGarry, adding that burning without a permit could result in a $300 fine.
Municipal enforcement officer, Stewart Payne added that when the county inspects burn pits they focus more on what is in the pit than the pit itself.
Harty asked what constituted a legal incinerator in the County of Forty Mile and that the county bylaws are vague.
Payne agreed that term ‘incinerator’ needs better definition in the county bylaw and pointed out that they need definitions from the provincial Act.
“I think maybe council needs to look at its bylaw,” said Harty. “I phoned for a permit, waited for the proper time and being denied was like a slap in the face because I feel county council needs to set the rules for the tax payers.”
Reeve Bryne Lengyel said that some of the rules in the county bylaw already come from provincial statutes. Payne, who was involved with the creation of the county bylaw, said it was written with safety in mind.
“We are governed by provincial legislation. Our bylaws were written under the guidance of the (Alberta Forest and Prairie Protection Act),” said Payne.
While Harty was denied the permit because of having plastics in his burn pit, Coun. Chantel Timmons said that McGarry followed through with the request correctly because he was aware that the pit contained prohibited material.
“He was following the direction we had given him,” said Timmons. Harty also noted that there was burning taking place at the South Forty waste station, but the county argued that it was not county employees doing the burning.
“South Forty has a mandate. The county just oversees it. South Forty was doing it, not the county,” said Lengyel.
Coun. Ron Harty said that not being able to burn rubbish in a burn pit if the garbage is in plastic bags is ridiculous.
“Do you want us to carry our garbage out in buckets every day like we did in the 30s?” asked Coun. Ron Harty. “I don’t think they mean black plastic bags that are thinner than cigarette paper.”
“Any type of plastic is prohibited to burn. Other fire departments are having the same issue,” McGarry countered. “If I know somebody is burning prohibited debris, I can not issue the permit. Burn permits are there for safety and for county knowledge. I recommend keeping them on for safety. When it is dry and it is right now, there are no permits issued and we put fire bans in place.”
“He did exactly what he was supposed to do. Now, how do we move forward?” asked Coun. Steve Wikkerink.
County council continued to discuss their fire bylaw, including fire permits and bans, but voted to table the issue until a future meeting.