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Concerns Raised Over Wood Smoke

Changes to Chatham-Kent's open air burn bylaw have a group of residents up in arms.

Shirley Brandie started a Facebook Group a couple of years ago to raise awareness of the effects wood smoke has on the environment, health, and property value.

That group has now reached over 100 members.

Brandie says she has contacted the Chatham-Kent Fire department regarding the bylaw and was told it would benefit those living in rural areas as well as attract tourists.

"I really think that if they go ahead with this there's going to be a lot of people that are going to be calling the mayor and the council members," says Brandie. "If it's being used for tourism I think that's pretty far reaching."

Brandie says she moved to Chatham-Kent from Amherstburg a few years ago because of a neighbour's burning habits - which she says contaminated her home.

She says as a direct result of that burning, she had to replace the carpet and make certain renovations to get rid of the smell of smoke.

"You basically cannot get [the smell of] wood smoke out of your home once you've got it in there," says Brandie.

Now that Chatham-Kent has passed a new burning by-law, Brandie says she's afraid she'll have to go through the same issues again, so she's selling her home in Mitchell's Bay.

Brandie says there are dangerous chemicals in wood smoke -- one of which is Benzene -- that could affect people's health. She's also hoping municipal council will reconsider the approval of the bylaw.

"I would hope they would find out what's in wood smoke and take a look at what the other options might be," says Brandie.

Chatham-Kent Assistant Fire Chief Bob Davidson says he is familiar with the concerns being raised, but because these issues have been reported as long-standing, that indicates to him that the problem isn't with the new bylaw specifically.

Davidson says if the smoke gets to the point where it's a health hazard or it's contaminating your property, the person who started the fire needs to put it out.

"When we issue the permits, those people that are burning must sign a form acknowledging that they read the bylaw and are going to be in complete compliance," says Davidson. "That means they acknowledge that if the neighbor complains they're going to put the fire out."

Davidson says at this point, most of the complaints they have received in regards to fire pits and the new bylaw are coming from outside of Chatham-Kent.

He says he has received complaints regarding environmental safety from people in areas such as B.C., Minnesota, and Pennsylvania.

"What we've tried to do is educate those folks that the new bylaw has significant restrictions," says Davidson. "The campfire recreational piece and recognizing the agricultural sector are the two major changes [in the new bylaw]."

Davidson is also reminding the general public that while the bylaw has been approved by council, the municipality's burning regulations haven't changed just yet.

"Unfortunately, administratively it takes us some time to make the changes we need in order to administer the new bylaw," says Davidson.

The bylaw will go into effect once those details are ironed out. Davidson didn't have a timeline for when that might happen.

Until then, no permits or application forms will be available.

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