Illegal backyard burns bog down Windsor fire department

Windsor firefighters rushed to backyard fires seven times this week because people were using illegal fire bowls and chimineas.

Fire prevention officer wants citizens to know fire bowls, chimineas are not legal in the city

The common belief that fire pits are legal as long as they are being used to roast a marshmallow or wiener over the flame is wrong. (Courtesy Harry Sawyers)

Windsor firefighters rushed to backyard fires seven times this week alone.

John Lee, the acting chief fire prevention officer, wants to make it clear to everyone that it is illegal to burn a fire in fire bowls, pits or chimineas in Windsor.

Fire Bylaws

LaSalle - allowed

Lakeshore - allowed

Tecumseh - allowed

Essex - allowed by permit

Kingsville - allowed for cooking

Amherstburg - allowed for cooking

Leamington - not allowed

Windsor - not allowed

He also said the common belief that these types of pits are legal as long as they are being used to roast a marshmallow or wiener over the flame is wrong.

"That was a common thread that we found throughout that, basically, for a lack of better terms, legalized the burning," Lee said. "The position of our chief is that that is not the intent of that device, and it's not permitted."

Lee said there are lots of potential problems with illegal fire pits and backyard burning, in general.

"You have environmental issues if the wrong wood or wrong product is used," he said of pressure treated wood, for example. "You have damage to property. There's also the nuisance issues or complaints when it effects people around them."

In Amherstburg, fire pits are legal for cooking only. Even that definition is up to the discretion of the responding firefighters.

A spokesperson for the Amherstburg fire department said the department is constantly flooded with complaints about outdoor fires.

Penalties for breaking the rules run up to $50,000 and a year in jail.

"Typically that's not what you would see. Generally, if there is to be prosecution, it's 10 per cent of the maximum fine on the first offense," Lee said.

Lee said Cooking appliances that are fuelled by propane and natural gas are fine to be used outside. Lee says people get confused about what's legal, since fire bowls and chimineas are sold in Windsor stores.

Linda Lee-Lapointe is a manager at Patio Palace in Windsor. She said propane and natural gas fire pits and fire bowls are safer. There are no sparks, no smell, no smoke and no worry of it spreading or having to put it out at the end of the night. Simply turn it off,

Lee-Lapointe said she still sells a few fire bowls and chimineas, but not many.

"Most of the time, we hear people doing it because the neighbour is doing it," she said. "It’s not up to use to regulate it. It’s up to the people to check with their municipalities."

A complete list of which appliance and devices are legal in Windsor is on the fire department's website.