Sturgeon County – Council gave third and final reading to the Sturgeon County Burning Bylaw at its Aug. 24 regular meeting, allowing the County’s peace officers to now play a greater role in addressing unsafe and unpermitted burning.
The bylaw replaces Sturgeon County’s seven-year-old burning bylaw and gives peace officers more teeth to put a bite on offenders while reducing the need to roll out two fire units to investigate a complaint.
Under the old bylaw, the County would bill landowners for sending out fire vehicles; however, the system had not proven to be an effective method. Under the new bylaw, peace officers will be able to investigate and levy fines ranging from $500 to $3,000 depending on the infraction and how many times the infraction has occurred.
A person lighting or burning a fire without a valid permit will now be fined $500 for a first offence, $1,000 for a second offence and $2,000 for a subsequent occurrence. The same scale of fines will apply to anyone lighting or burning a fire during a fire ban. Failing to comply with the conditions of a fire permit range from $250 to $1,000 depending on the number of times the infraction occurs. The bylaw’s harshest penalties are reserved for those who willfully fail to comply with the bylaw. Those who do so will receive a $1,000 fine for the first offence, $2,000 for a second offence and $3,000 for a subsequent willful violation.
Council had previously given first and second reading to the bylaw at its July 13 council meeting, but a motion to give third reading was defeated by Councillors Tom Flynn, Ken McGillis and Mayor Don Rigney, the latter of whom advocated for more time to ensure councillors had sufficient time to review the document and that residents had a chance to learn of what was coming.
County administration has run educational bulletins in its weekly FYI over the summer published on MorinvilleNews.com and in the pages of the Free Press. Acting Fire Chief Acting Fire Chief Pat Mahoney said he will be working with County Peace Officers to create a strategy to further educate the public about the new bylaw.