passed the By-law for the Education and Regulation of Fire Prevention of on May 15.
The by-law sets out guidelines for responsible burning within the municipality, and gives the council authority to issue a fire ban if deemed necessary.
“We’ve tailored it to our own way of doing it,” said Dufferin Reeve George Gray. “The council will have control of putting it on, and the council will have control of taking it off.”
Several Manitoba municipalities, including the RM of Roland, already have similar by-laws in place. Without such a by-law, municipalities cannot enforce a fire ban.
The Carman-Dufferin Fire Department has requested a burning by-law be put in place in Dufferin three times in recent years.
The local department responds to a number of grass fires each spring, when dry conditions on the prairies enable fires to easily get out of control or rekindle even days after they’re extinguished.
Tinderbox conditions and a high amount of calls for the local firefighters convinced the RM that it was time to move forward now, according to Gray.
“The guys [on council] did a really critical look at it,” he said. “They felt that it was time that we had something…we felt the urgency of the dry weather.”
After passing the by-law on the evening of May 15, the council immediately enacted a fire ban. The ban was lifted on the morning of Tuesday, May 22.
Gray said the plan was to lift the ban “when the conditions are present that indicate that it’s safe to burn.”
The RM of Dufferin created its by-law in part with material and recommendations from the Manitoba Municipal Act and the Office of the Fire Commissioner.
Besides listing fire responsibilities, the document also sets out penalties for those who contravene the by-law.
Penalties could include a fine between $500 and $1000 and reimbursement of costs incurred by the municipality in fighting unlawful fires and/or damages incurred to municipal property.
Gray is hoping that people will use common sense at all times when it comes to burning.
“If you are going to burn, under any circumstances, that it may be compromised…you should let the fire department know, or the council know, so they can be aware and maybe go and look at it and advise you what to do,” he said. “It’s just a good relationship.”
And during any future fire bans, he said people should simply refrain from burning anything at all.
“Keep your matches in your pocket…because once the match is struck all hell breaks loose,” he said.
“You may be completely innocent and very concerned, but once the match is lit and the fire is gone it’s out of your control and you wish you hadn’t done it.”