Friday the 13th marks the return to open burning in the Central Okanagan.
After a long, hot, unseasonably dry summer where the fire risk was even higher than normal, open burning season in the Central Okanagan will begin at 5 p.m. tomorrow, says the regional district, as long as air quality and venting conditions are good and proper permits are obtained from local fire authorities.
Under regional district and local fire bylaws, open burning is only allowed between Oct. 1 and April 30. This year, Central Okanagan fire chiefs decided with the elevated fire hazard to postpone issuing permits until Oct 13.
Those eligible to burn within the four Central Okanagan East and West electoral area fire protection areas (Ellison, Joe Rich, North Westside and Wilson’s Landing) can call the regional district at 250-469-6223 to obtain a permit. (Long distance collect calls are accepted weekdays only between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., excluding holidays).
Before lighting any fire, property owners with a valid permit must call the toll-free outdoor burning hotline at 1-855-262-BURN (2876) to determine if open burning is allowed on a particular day. Both the venting and air quality conditions must be good in order for burning to occur within Central Okanagan fire jurisdictions. This information will also be available each day after 8 a.m. at regionaldistrict.com/airquality.
Property owners with permits should follow the following best practices to reduce smoke:
• If conditions allow open burning, light fires after 10 a.m. when venting conditions are usually more favourable
• Prunings, branches and stumps must be dried for a minimum of two years before burning
• Make smaller piles with good air ventilation for more efficient burning
Under the the regional district smoke control bylaw, nuisance smoke from open burning is not allowed in the City of Kelowna, District of Lake Country, City of West Kelowna and Central Okanagan East and West electoral areas or under the bylaws of the District of Peachland. Yard waste, such as leaves, pine needles, grass clippings, weeds and other garden waste, cannot be burned.
Anyone caught violating the rules could face a fine or be charged with the cost of putting out the fire. Residents are encouraged to report illegal burning on non-burning days by calling the regional fire dispatch center at 250-469-8577.
Meanwhile, all Central Okanagan property owners are being encouraged to use other clean air options to dispose of yard waste. Options include:
• The bi-weekly curbside yard waste collection program is underway through November 30th and residents are reminded to only place leaves, grass, pine needles and small pruning’s inside their wheeled yard waste cart with the green lid closed.
• Residents may also use the free yard waste drop off program at the Glenmore landfill until Dec. 31. It’s open from 7:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. daily (closed Dec. 15, 16 and Jan. 1) and up to loads 250 kilograms and 20 centimeters or less in diameter may be dropped off for free. Fees apply to yard waste loads exceeding the free maximum weight and diameter. Starting in January, fees will apply to all yard waste dropped off at the Glenmore landfill. Fees are also charged for yard waste disposal at the Westside Residential Waste Disposal Centre off Asquith Road in West Kelowna. It is open 7:30 a.m. to 3:50 p.m. Friday through Monday. When transporting loads for disposal, make sure they are covered.
• A number of private companies offer wood chipping and grinding services or rent portable chippers. Some may also pick up yard waste for disposal.
Under provincial Right to Farm legislation, agricultural burning is allowed and it accounts for most of the burning permits issued in the Central Okanagan.
Before starting any fire, farmers must call 1-855-262-BURN (2876) or visit regionaldistrict.com/airqualityto ensure burning can take place on a particular day.
As an alternate disposal method, the Regional Air Quality Program is working with farmers to encourage using the Agricultural Chipping Program. The program offers a best management practices handbook and DVD to help farmers.
Funding is also still available for agricultural producers who wish to participate in the chipping program. Contact the regional air quality coordinator at 250-469-8408 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Central Okanagan residents are reminded to check with their local fire jurisdiction regarding regulations and restrictions regarding campfires, chimneys and other outdoor wood-fire burning devices. Campfires are not allowed at any time within the City of Kelowna.
The regional air quality program is proposing new bylaws to reduce smoke in the Okanagan, which could see further restrictions imposed on open burning.
It’s looking for input from those who obtain burning permits to help shape investments in programs and alternative options that prevent local air pollution.
The results from the online survey will be included in a smoke reduction strategy proposal for consideration by the regional district board.
You can have your say online, and complete the survey, before Nov. 19.