North

Want to have a bonfire in Whitehorse? It better be in a city-approved backyard fire pit

The Chadburn Lake Road is a tempting place to have a bonfire but it's both prohibited and dangerous, says Whitehorse's fire chief.

Open fires are prohibited between Apr. 1 and Sept. 30, city-approved backyard fire pits are the exception

Open burning is prohibited in Whitehorse between Apr. 1 and Sept. 30. (Submitted by City of Whitehorse)

With its wilderness access and proximity to downtown Whitehorse, it's no wonder the Chadburn Lake Road is a tempting place to have a bonfire. And, judging by the scattered fire scars in parking areas, many people have done just that. 

But starting a fire at Chadburn or anywhere else in Whitehorse is not only prohibited, it's also risky, said Jason Everitt, fire chief with the City of Whitehorse. 

"There's nothing that will contain these fires," he explained, pointing to a large burned out area next to a fire-damaged picnic bench at a pullout beside Schwatka Lake. "They [fires] can creep into grass once it's dry and ... in the right conditions, it can become somewhat explosive."

The city of Whitehorse has a seasonal ban on open fires between between Apr. 1 and Sept. 30 under its emergency services bylaw. Everitt said open fires include any fires on public land as well as fires on private property used to burn brush, trees or yard waste and debris.

He said people who skirt those rules risk endangering people and property if a wildfire starts. If that isn't enough of a deterrent, maybe the price tag is. Everitt said people who start forest fires could be on the hook for the costs to fight it. 

'There's nothing that will contain these fires,' said Jason Everitt, fire chief with the City of Whitehorse. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

"It could be tens of thousand or hundreds of thousands of dollars." 

The exception to Whitehorse's fire ban on open fires is backyard fire pits. Those must be inspected and approved by the fire department prior to use.

Backyard fires must be called in every time

The city has guidelines on its website about the required design and materials of a fire pit, and the distance it must be from combustible materials. 

​Marney Paradis, a Porter Creek resident, said getting a permit for her fire pit was very straight-forward.

She called the fire department and was able to get it inspected the following day. Following a five-minute inspection, she was issued th city's Back Yard/Cooking Fire Burning Permit. 

"It was very easy," said Paradis.  

Whitehorse has a detailed list of guidelines people who use backyard fire pits must follow. (City of Whitehorse)

The permit requires that the fire is not left unattended and that smoke does not enter a neighbour's house. 

Permit holders are required to call the city's 24 hour non-emergency fire dispatch number every time they plan to have a fire. The dispatcher will advise if the conditions are suitable for a fire, according to the hazard rating (determined by Yukon government) and wind levels. 

Paradis said calling dispatch before having a bonfire isn't a big deal.  

"They answer on the first ring and I give them my permit number and it's over."

Examples of prohibited fire rings along the Chadburn Lake Road in Whitehorse. (Submitted by City of Whitehorse)

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