Another pandemic summer saw many homeowners spending more time around backyard fire pits — when conditions weren’t too dry — but some residents with breathing problems have asked a city councillor to try to put a stop to the smoke.
The idea of establishing buffer zones for residential fires will be up for discussion at an upcoming city committee meeting through a motion put forward by Coun. Kevin Klein, who is asking city administration to find out whether a fire-buffer policy exists in other places and would be feasible for Winnipeg.
Klein is not asking for a change to the city bylaw governing residential fires; he said he simply wants the public service to complete a report on the issue because he’s heard several complaints from residents with asthma. He’s also heard from residents who enjoy having fires and don’t want that privilege taken away.
"Some very angry, on both sides, so this is why I think it’s key for us (to get a report)," Klein said.
"There’s lots of residents that love their fire pits and I totally understand that, but the onus is on me to help everybody and just look at it now and say, ‘Is there a better way?’" he added.
The motion, which was passed at the Assiniboia Community Committee on July 8, asks city staff to consider the idea of an open-air fire buffer-zone policy for medical reasons. It states "some residents in Winnipeg do suffer from extreme asthma and in some cases are negatively impacted by the burning of wood," and proposes "residents should have an equal ability to enjoy their backyard and/or have windows open for fresh air."
The motion is still in early stages. It is set to be discussed at Thursday’s meeting of the standing policy committee on protection, community services and parks. Committee chairwoman Sherri Rollins said she’s also heard from residents with similar complaints about air quality due to neighbours’ backyard fires.
Klein acknowledged it would be difficult to enforce a fire-buffer policy.
"It would be a lot more difficult than, say, a mosquito fogging buffer zone, but at this point, it’s really important to note it’s just a report," he said.
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.