Open burning sparks complaints to city

There was smoke, but not much fire.

The Salmon Arm Fire Department received several complaints about smoke blanketing the city over the weekend. It apparently emanated mainly from stump piles where a subdivision is going in off 10th Avenue SE, adjacent to Hillcrest Elementary School.

“The venting index, according to the Ministry of Environment, was adequate to start burning,” said assistant chief Rod Macfarlane Monday morning, noting the burning was done under a four-day permit. “But the weather didn’t cooperate... and the material wasn’t as dry as it should have been.”

Macfarlane said a number of people were adversely affected by the smoke, including one person with emphysema.

“We had a number of complaints.”

He said the permit holder recognized the problem himself.

“He didn’t attempt to light any more fires. From the complaints we received this morning, we advised him to no longer burn under the permit...”

Macfarlane said the fire department visited the site on the weekend.

“It created a lot of smoke during the (Saturday) night, having burnt down, it started to smoulder. There was a bit of an inversion, it brought it all down to the lower town area.”

Macfarlane also noted that open burning permits started Saturday, so other people may have been burning    in town. As long as a property is one acre, it’s allowed.

Ken Appeldoorn was the permit holder in question.

Contacted by the Observer, he said he made a choice, but the wrong one.

“I would say there’s kind of a fine line between it being dry enough in the season to get the fires going... In hindsight I guess I wish I’d waited another month or two when it’s really dry. The permit would have still been effective; however, there’s a good chance I’d burn the town down. I’m not sure what’s the lesser of two evils. Trying to burn when it’s wet to be on the safety side and suffering smoke, or suffering the consequences of a forest fire.

“Anyway, I chose the earlier, I failed and I put the fire out.”

He said he was surprised by all the smoke.

“The permit allows three fires, and I had two leaf blowers going. As long as I kept the leaf blowers in one pile, it would seem to go and then the other piles would begin to snuff. Then I’d run over, I was trying to work the three piles, and finally just gave up.”

He said Saturday night after dark he let the fires fizzle and on Sunday they went out.

Will he be trying again?

It’s doubtful, he said, adding that alternatives could be a trench burn or hauling away the stumps.

Appeldoorn noted that, given his proximity to Hillcrest Elementary, the permit doesn’t allow him to burn when school’s in session – so he thought it would be a good idea to burn during spring break.

Overall, he says:  “Probably not a good decision. Not one of the better ones I’ve ever made.”


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