Open Burning?

It’s time for a little venting: Open Burning season (which runs October 16 – May 14) does not mean Open Season on burning. 

These days we’re all acutely aware of the health implications of breathing polluted air and the damaged caused by releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  District of Lantzville Fire Protection Services Bylaw No. 86, 2010 stresses “that all other means to reduce, re-use and recycle” materials should be taken before deciding to burn. 

And of course not everything in your backyard is a candidate for the fire pit.  Prohibited materials include garbage, treated lumber or building materials, rubber, paint, plastics, drywall, fuel and lubricants, medical waste and anything that is recyclable in our green and bluebox recycling program.  For a full list, check out District of Lantzville Fire Protection Services Bylaw No. 86, 2010, Amendment Bylaw No. 86.1, 2012 on the Lantzville website.

If burning is necessary, and your intended fuel is in keeping with the regulations, you must next determine how easily smoke will dissipate by checking something known as the “ventilation index”.

Read on a scale of zero to one hundred, the ventilation index reflects the potential of the atmosphere to disperse airborne pollutants.  The more the air moves vertically from the surface, the better. Values 0-33 describe a poor day for burning, 34-54 a fair day, and 55-100 a good day.  The BC Ministry of Environment Venting Index can be found by going online to and looking for “Central Van Isl” or by calling 1-888-281-2992 and pressing “2”.  So, before you light your fire, checking the Venting Index is a must!

On poor to fair days smoke is unable to escape ground level.  Wet, overcast or foggy days are always poor days to burn.  Good days see better vertical air exchange and a quicker evacuation of pollutants.  Burning is only permitted when the ventilation index is 55 or greater. Residents burning on poor or fair days will be directed to extinguish their fire.

It’s important not to confuse high winds with a good venting index.  Heavy winds do not necessarily mean vertical mixing – it might just mean the smoke from your fire will move a little further down the street.  Fires should only be lit when winds are no greater than 15 kilometres per hour – akin to a gentle breeze. 

Other considerations for outdoor burning include having sufficient water, tools and people on hand to control your blaze should it get out of hand; ensuring at least a metre-wide area around the blaze is clear of flammable materials; and knowing your staying power – because you should never leave a fire until it’s completely out.

The final rule for outdoor burning is a simple one – if the smoke and ash from your fire is bothering you, chances are your neighbours will feel the same.

Lantzville Fire Rescue is looking for new recruits. If you’re in good physical condition and want to help out your community call the Hall at 250-390-2811 to inquire.



Posted in Lantzville Fire Rescue, November 2014
One comment on “Open Burning?
  1. cheri says:

    Thank you so much Jeff for an excellent piece here on a very important subject and one where there is a ton of misinformation ‘out there’. Hopefully your well written article will help to clear up some of the misconceptions on outdoor burning which are rampant in this community. I am hopeful that information such as what you have described here may help the people who burn without regard for the weather or materials they put on their fires to see how harmful these activities can be to others and to our common air quality.

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