Fruit farmers object to burning fees in Kelowna

Spring burning is in full swing in Kelowna where plumes of smoke can be seen on the horizon on most clear days. - Jennifer Smith
Spring burning is in full swing in Kelowna where plumes of smoke can be seen on the horizon on most clear days.
— image credit: Jennifer Smith

City council should stick to the new $20 open burning permit rates, even for farmers who operate multiple orchards, Kelowna Fire Chief Jeffrey Carlisle is recommending.

On Friday, Assistant Fire Chief Lou Wilde met with B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association president Fred Steele on the issue, after Steele pointed out the new $20 fee attached to the permit can really add up for orchardists with multiple sites.

As the majority of orchardists farm several sites simultaneously to turn a profit on the notoriously tight bottom line in the industry, some are facing bills of several hundred dollars to dispose of orchard trimmings.

Jeffrey Carlisle“The $20 is partially to offset the cost of running this program,” said Carlisle, who noted anyone who buys a new lot or has run afoul of the fire department for burning items outside what the city’s bylaws allows must be inspected by a member of the department.

The issue was brought to council’s attention during its morning meeting Monday.

The $20 fee also helps fire inspectors ensure residents are not burning outside times designated as open burning days by the Central Okanagan Regional District, which keeps track of the venting index in the valley.

It ensures those burning materials keep the piles away from property lines by 100 feet, and that the materials fall within a designated list—prunings, branches, tree trunks or other dry piled products of land cleaning.

Compostable material, such as grass clippings, leaves and tree needles, cannot be burned. Rubber tires, oil plastics, and other miscellaneous construction materials are never allowed to be thrown on the burn pile. Without inspections and parameters, such as those established in the bylaw, the smell in the valley would spike when burning season arrives, the fire chief said.

Burning is permitted October through April and reaches a peak in April as farmers try to finish pruning and clearing before the April 30 cut off.

Steele could not be reached for comment Monday.

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