Wood Smoke Stories

Pizza restaurant smokes out home

At the height of Covid restrictions and stay-at-home orders in 2020, a new restaurant opened just a few doors down from our mixed-use building. What was once a wonderful, cosy coffee shop became, without warning or neighbourhood consultation, an Italian cuisine restaurant featuring a large, custom built pizza oven that burns wood. Lots of wood.

Surrounded on three sides with residential tenants and apartments, the neighbourhood was soon awash in clouds of opaque wood smoke from morning to night. At first some residents thought buildings were on fire in the area. And with the top of their chimney or smoke stack lower than our windows and balconies, we were bathed in smoke, soot and odor every day of the week. Leaving a door or window open meant inviting the clouds of swirling gray and brown smoke into one’s home, although it seeped in anyways, a silent home invasion of toxicity.

All this in a city, North Vancouver, that aims to declare itself the “Healthiest Small City in the World,” and whose mayor is a public health nurse. And here it is over 3.5 years later and the daily barrage of wood smoke continues. Multiple times a day. Every day. All year long. Nothing has stopped the smoke. Not the near daily complaints, video submitted to regulators of air quality and enforcement arms… not the phone calls, emails, tears and talk. Not the begging or pleading. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Nothing has changed. The smoke keeps coming. Not even our local MLA has been able to get that regulator, Metro Vancouver, to stop the wood smoke despite bylaws allowing them to take firm action.

No one has even been bothered to enforce basics around the wood storage and other NFPA regulations. They won’t even answer questions. A wall of silence.

I’ve been diagnosed with long Covid now. I’m told by my doctor, the case manager at the Long Covid clinic, and an internal medicine specialist I see that the wood smoke is such a significant harm to my health that it will cause more damage and stall recovery.

I tell Metro Vancouver, the City, the Mayor, members of the board of my health condition and concerns. Still nothing is done to stop the wood smoke. No regulations are enforced to stop the restaurant from causing harms. The smoke spreads over the neighbourhood and silently enters our home and lungs unabated. Our lives and health are no match for the money-making business of wood-fired pizza. We are worth less than a cord of wood in the eyes of Kafkaesque bureaucrats and institutions who can open their windows fearlessly to the sunshine and air.

Metro Vancouver told me that, after 3.5 years and counting, the restaurant was recently sold to new owners and because of this fact, they “needed to start over and work with this new owner on mitigation.” So, in other words, because they failed to take action for years and years, they were in essence nullifying my previous complaints and efforts for enforcement of air quality regulations to work with the new owner!!

It was so insulting and dismissive of my concerns and efforts. All those years of work for basically nothing.

There is even more to the story. I can’t even explain the damage this has done to our mental, emotional and physical health.