Councillors with the City of Dryden have approved changes to their open-air and campfire by-laws to make it that much easier for residents to follow the rules and regulations.

During a virtual council meeting on April 26, councillor Shayne MacKinnon requested the motion presented by Fire Chief Kent Readman to be severed so councillors could discuss and vote on the proposed changes.

“Now, we’re expected to pass more laws, rather than undertaking some education for the community,” said councillor Shayne MacKinnon. “I think this boils down to education. I don’t think we need any more by-laws.”

Previously, Dryden residents needed a yearly permit to host campfires. If they didn’t have a permit, it could lead to fines between $100 and $200. The Dryden Fire Service received 29 open-air burning complaints in 2020, but no charges were laid.

“I can understand those concerns, but most of the things in this by-law reflect things in our current by-law, it’s just worded in a way that’s easier to understand. It’s a clarification of things,” explained Fire Chief Kent Readman.

Ultimately, councillors approved changes to the fire by-law, with councillor Shayne MacKinnon being the lone councillor to vote against the move. Chief Administrative Officer Roger Nesbitt and councillor Norm Bush both noted the previous by-law was fairly outdated and in need of an update.

“We’ll use this as an educational tool,” adds Chief Readman. “Not everyone will have a permit this weekend. This is an opportunity to work with residents to make sure they’re aware of the new processes.”

The largest change being residents will need to apply online for a one-time, free, yearly permit to have a campfire. Residents will be required to sign a document stating they are aware of the city’s fire by-law and its regulations.

As well, an enclosed fire pit will now require a permit. A propane fire pit or fire pits that can be shut off with a valve won’t require a permit. Flying lantern-type devices are now considered restricted and illegal.

For those burning brush or grass, the Dryden Fire Service will be sending a Fire Prevention officer to inspect the area to ensure the fire won’t spread and fire safety guidelines are being followed.

Councillors Martin and Shayne MacKinnon, John Carlucci, Norm Bush, Michelle Price and Dave McKay all stressed they want to see officers educating residents before handing out fines, which would only be issued for repeat offenders.

“A fine is quite punitive. There should be warnings given first before there are fines levied, even for this first season. We’re already going to be into May here. Let’s see how that goes for the first year, and maybe that’s all that’s required,” said councillor Dave McKay.

“Totally agree,” said Chief Readman. “That educational aspect is important to us. We’re about keeping the community safe, not charging people. Now, if it’s outright disregard for people’s property or health, that could be looked at differently.”

Anyone who contravenes the by-law may be liable for all damages to public and/or private property caused by the fire, as well as the cost of extinguishing the fire.

Residents are reminded that:

- No person shall ignite an open-air fire without obtaining a permit,
- No person shall ignite a flying lantern at any time,
- No person shall leave an open-air fire unsupervised at any time,
- No person shall ignite an open-air fire that could endanger any buildings or people nearby,
- No person shall ignite an open-air fire that creates a nuisance like excessive smoke or odour,
- All open-air fires shall be fully extinguished prior to leaving the site,
- No person shall ignite an open-air fire during a fire ban or in a restricted fire zone,
- Open-air fires are only permitted from November 1 to March 31, except as permitted,
- Open-air fires shall not exceed 6 feet in diameter and 6 feet in height,
- Open-air fires shall not be set if winds exceed 25 kilometres per hour,

Permits can be found HERE, and more information on the by-law can be found HERE. Residents can also call 1-855-566-0086 toll-free or the Dryden Fire Service at 1-807-223-1178.