Hamilton Township residents voice concerns about brush fire
Complaints about a brush fire from residents, including Edward Lacika of Forest Hill Drive, are prompting Hamilton Township to rewrite its fire permit bylaw. VALERIE MACDONALD/Northumberland Today
A brush fire that burned eight hours to heights reaching an estimated 30 feet at times, and sending smoke billowing into two Forest Hill Drive homes, was the reason Edward Lacika and Ron Smith went to Hamilton Township council last week.
It has also prompted a rewrite of the township's fire permit bylaw, Fire Chief Kelly Serson said in an interview following the council meeting.
It will come before council next week, he added.
Both of the men who spoke at council said they suffer breathing problems and the fire was a health issue for them because the smoke seeped right through the walls and windows of their homes.
At first, Lacika said, he thought it was an emergency and called 9-1-1 but then found out it was a deliberately set brush fire and there was a permit issued by the township for it.
Because of the size and intensity of the nearby fire, Lacika said he called the township office and the OPP – but it was allowed to continue.
“The duration of the fire was eight hours...and was three metres or 30 feet at times,” Lacika continued.
“You could see the marks of the flames on the (nearby) trees.”
The fire chief was out of the municipality at the time and the OPP did nothing, Lacika stressed.
“I could not get any help to stop the fire.”
Ron Smith, who lives on Forest Hill Drive, said the smoke was so thick he could not see to the end of his property.
“I'm asthmatic as well,” he said, adding that the smoke permeated his home.
Smith stressed that he could not understand how a “farm” burn permit was issued in a residential area where there should be protection for homeowners. It was damp out when the blaze continued to burn throughout the day last month, he said.
“This was really an excessive fire,” Smith summed up.
Lacika, who has lived there 21 years, called for a revision of the fire permit bylaw to better safeguard the health of older residents, and better back up when the fire chief is unavailable.
Mayor Mark Lovshin assured the residents that township staff have looked into this and minor changes have already been made.
Councillor Bill Cane said that a new burn permit process is in the works.
Even with the current permit, “no one is allowed to have such an offensive fire,” he stressed.
After the meeting the fire chief said that initially the fire department responded to what they believed was an emergency fire after Lacika called, but when they arrived discovered it was by permit instead. At the time it was not as large as described by the area residents, he added, and the deputy chief checked on the situation.
The permit system in place under the current bylaw has different costs based on whether they are farm or in residential areas but there are strict rules about the proximity to flammable materials, etc., he said.
An updated permit bylaw is to be discussed at the next council session.