Wood Smoke Stories

Backyard Fires in Kitchener, Ontario

I live in Kitchener, Ontario a city which permits recreational backyard bonfires… with certain conditions applied. There is a lack of education on both the health risks associated with wood smoke, and the by-law requirements. When my neighbours have fires (usually nightly) I am forced to close all my windows, which often results in the inside temperature reaching 35 degrees or more, making it very uncomfortable for us. If the fire is close by, we experience burning, watering eyes, sore throats, and headaches which persist for hours into the following day.

On two occasions, city council was presented with evidence against wood fires by the Medical Officer of Health who recommended a total ban. They chose to ignore these recommendations, instead pandering to the burners who claim that gathering around a fire “builds community” among neighbours. What it does in reality is build animosity, with some burners becoming verbally abusive when neighbours ask them to extinguish their fires (under by-law provisions) and then going out of their respective way to create more smoke more often as retaliation. It really can get out of hand!

The policing of fires is carried out by by-law officers, and is a low priority. Often they respond after the fire is extinguished, so there is no investigation or examination of the premises to ensure they conform to the conditions set forth in the by-law. A very disappointing and discouraging situation, particularly considering that the surrounding municipalities do not allow open burning!

Anaphylaxis From OWB
Forced to Move
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