Fort St. John Fire Department seeking better bylaw enforcement

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Erica Fisher

Erica is a reporter for Moose FM and in Fort St. John, B.C. She grew up in Victoria, B.C. and received her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec.

As a result, it has proposed a new bylaw, that reflects current operating practices and regulations. It includes changes to the Department's ability to issue tickets for bylaw contraventions, inspection frequencies, fireworks regulations, and hydrant maintenance. Fire hydrants will also be painted all yellow, to ensure visibility.

"What this bylaw allows us, is to ensure that we can enforce the fire code properly," explains Deputy Fire Chief Curtis Redpath. "It does have some fines that we can utilize if necessary, however there are steps in here that we need to take to gain compliance, rather than just fining somebody."
Fire Chief Fred Burrows says the Department would rather find ways for everyone to obey the bylaws, rather than simply reprimanding those who don't.
"Overall we're trying to gain compliance, because for every person that's non-compliant, and we don't have a huge number, there are hundreds and hundreds of people and organizations that are compliant," he says. "In fairness to the people that spend the money and the time and the effort to become compliant, we needed a device to allow us to bring those other people on that were finding it difficult to play by the rules."
When the Fire Department presented its proposed bylaw to City Council on Monday, councillors were particularly interested in aspects revolving around open fires and fireworks.  In the draft bylaw, there is no permit requirement for outdoor cooking fires, but there would be a two hour duration limit. Councillors argued that the duration of having a fire in a backyard isn't the problem, but the noise that could come with it after hours when people are outside.
"I assume if you had a late hour for a fire and you were just sitting there watching it quietly, there probably wouldn't be an issue," argues Councillor Gord Klassen. "versus the party that goes along with the fire, then it becomes a noise bylaw issue."
Instead, they suggested changing it to not allow fires after 11:00 p.m.
Council was also concerned about restricting fireworks use to between July 1 and November 1, unless they have approval. Instead, it was suggested that stores be allowed to sell, and residents be allowed to use fireworks year round, provided they get a permit from the Fire Department. Burrows says that will likely please many merchants in town.
"We're always dealing with storekeepers that are always using the Regional District as their complaint, that in the Regional District, the fellow on the other side can sell year-round, and I'm only allowed to sell them on one day," he says. 
An outline of the proposed changes to the bylaw will be presented to City Council at their meeting on January 14, 2013.
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