Paintearth County updates fire bylaw

The newly passed fire bylaw will see fines begin at $2,000 for a first offence

By Kevin J. Sabo For the Advance

Despite some negative feedback, the County of Paintearth has a new fire bylaw.

The new Bylaw was passed during the May 21st meeting of council and replaces the two previous bylaws governing fire bans and fire permits.

Not everyone is happy with the new bylaw though.

Coronation area resident Chris Brearly said in a letter to council, “I think that before this bylaw was even drafted that the three fire departments in the COP (County of Paintearth) should have been consulted and as for input and suggestions, as should it be expected with any fire department related issues or changes that the COP is looking to implement.”

Some of the changes that Brearly alludes to in his letter are the removal of a $1,000 subsidy for all fire responses in the County, the ability to charge more than just the property owner for causing a fire, and stiffer penalties for fires.

“I don’t believe the COP should be billing out for firefighting services given, unless it is determined that gross negligence was the leading cause of the fire,” Brearly continued.

“The last thing I would want is a farmer/business or worker not to call on a fire department because they are worried about how much it will cost them.”

County council has a different perspective.

“The purpose of this bylaw is to hold those who cause fires accountable, with the intention of reducing fires in the County through stronger penalties which discourage behaviours that lead to fires, which includes the ability to levy charges for cost against more than just property owners, who sometimes are the victim of fires which did not originate on their land (I use the example of a grass fire started in the ditch from a cigarette or someone welding in dry grass outdoors),” said CAO Michael Simpson in a written response to a request for information.

Simpson defended the changes to the bylaw, and the lack of consultation with the fire departments in the region.

“That the fire bylaw is an enforcement mechanism, and we’re not turning to the fire departments to enforce the fire bylaw, we’re turning to our Community Peace Officer to enforce, which is why this isn’t the appropriate time to consult with Fire,” said CAO Simpson.

On the removing the $1,000 subsidy on fire responses, Simpson said, “We aren’t subsidizing the first $1,000 of each call anymore (taxpayers aren’t paying for each other’s fires, the person who causes it does more often than not).”

The newly passed fire bylaw will see fines begin at $2,000 for a first offence, $5,000 for a second, and $7,000 for third and subsequent offences.

Offenses include violating the terms of a fire permit, obstructing or interfering with access by fire services or fire services property at the scene of an incident or at a hydrant, causing or allowing a burning hazard or fire hazard to exist on a parcel of land, lighting or causing a fire during a fire ban or starting a fire without taking precautions to keep the fire under control, among other possible contraventions.

The fire bylaw did pass with one amendment; a fire pit may be 3 ft. across instead of the originally drafted 2 ft.

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