Backyard and Community Fires

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A group of residents interested in backyard fires recently made a presentation to Council, asking for consideration to allow residential backyard fires in the City of Waterloo. Council has asked staff to look into the feasibility of backyard fires and get a wider opinion from the general public on this topic. Recognizing that not all our residents live in properties suited for backyard fires, staff are also giving consideration to community fire spaces in approved neighbourhood parks.

A group of residents interested in backyard fires recently made a presentation to Council, asking for consideration to allow residential backyard fires in the City of Waterloo. Council has asked staff to look into the feasibility of backyard fires and get a wider opinion from the general public on this topic. Recognizing that not all our residents live in properties suited for backyard fires, staff are also giving consideration to community fire spaces in approved neighbourhood parks.


If you have thoughts on this project outside the scope of our survey (or if the survey has closed) please share them with the project team here.

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People who complain about smoke and pollution have no idea about the reality of this world still believe they know better how everyone should manage their own backyards. Our grand-grand parents heated their homes only with wood and never complained about having asthma. You are driving cars, with with minimum 3 liters engine sizes, on a daily basis and that is not causing pollution or triggering asthmas however a small backyard fire once per month does all the bad in this city. I grew up burning fires, eating raw eggs or meat, never washing my hands or the fruits before eating - so far I have 0-zero chronic illnesses. Perhaps people around here have so many health issues, including mental because they grew up in a sterile world.
With COVID imposed restrictions this will be a good present for the kids who have to spend their march break inside the house. I am just curious, is there at least one city official(including Doug Ford) who is in support of covid restrictions and this by-law and does not have a huge mansion somewhere in Muskoka? FYI - most people don't have that luxury.

vasea 3 days ago

I'm in support of backyard fires. Kitchener, Cambridge and Noth Dumphries have allowed small backyard fires for years with reasonable restrictions and can be leaned on to create the new policy.

NatT 5 days ago

I think backyard campfires are a ridiculous idea for a city that prides itself on its efforts to be 'green' and its desire to diminish our contribution to the climate change problems. Campfires will cause increasing greenhouse gases. Another desire of the city is increased intensification of residences and people within its borders. More people living closer together does not allow for backyard campfires. The resultant air pollution will not only annoy neighbours but may exacerbate health concerns. Why should someone's desire to sit around a campfire with others in order to relax amid the stressors of the pandemic trump a neighbour's right to breathe clean air outdoors? I would suggest a walk in nature with friends to combat mental stressors. Aren't we all encouraged to be more active for our health anyway? Go to an approved campground and observe the rules there with respect to campfires.

Jan123 13 days ago

In support. Live in a neighborhood with indoor wood burning fireplaces so the "health, safety and environmental" concerns are unfounded. No different burning inside my home or in the backyard. FYI running your furnace on natural gas has environmental impacts as well. There's still the carbon, the excavation, storage, transport, infrastructure going through Greenland's, leakage, pipes degrading in the ground, etc. Regulations on time of day, size of pit, what can be burned (ie only wood, not garbage) would address noise concerns, harmful pollutants, etc.

Steven SL 14 days ago

I have a large treed lot in Waterloo. I already have small fires throughout the warmer months to burn up the branch's that come down throughout the year and at the same time enjoy quality time with my young family. All my neighbor's do the same and we have had no issues. If people are responsible and mindful of where the smoke is going then this should be on no consequence to others. Simple put, if your lot is large enough to keep the fires safe and not effecting others negatively then I certainly think this should be allowed.
From an environmental point of view: Decomposition of a tree produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Burning the log releases CO2, a much less potent greenhouse gas.

Khenderson 14 days ago

For health, safety and environmental concerns, the bylaw should not be changed. We do not want backyard firepits to be allowed in Waterloo.
Health - Anyone who has lung problems i.e. asthma or other lung health issues, will be adversely impacted by any increase in particulate matter in the air from fires. We must keep in mind that air moves – we have no control over it. Smoke in your backyard doesn’t just stay there; it travels around and affects others.
Safety - There is always the potential for increased fire risk with backyard fires despite best effort measures put in place to mitigate this risk.
Environmental - Anything being burned releases particulate matter into the air and causes pollution. We should be focusing on decreasing pollution not increasing it

Deg 15 days ago

I've been a resident of Waterloo for 25 years and have had to close my windows a lot due to neighbours burning wood in backyard frequently. using AC more often, higher hydro bills.
you don't need to have a fire to enjoy your backyard, grab a blanket, dress appropriately or buy a propane fireplace. Your telling me people from different households will distance correctly around small fire pit or where a mask if not, I highly doubt that. draw a properly scaled diagram of a circle with the centre point being the fire. the more people there are the farther back you must sit in order to properly distance.
the bigger the fire. do the math...... we can't let this happen especially now with infections starting to skyrocket again...using Covid as an excuse for this wrong!!!!!

smoky the Bear 15 days ago

On the face of it, backyard fires do not belong in dense urban areas that comprise a large part of this city. I've not seen this activity allowed in most other municipalities across Canada for reasons of pollution, nuisance to neighbors and generation of an unnecessary fire hazard. Propane or natural gas fueled "fire pits" are a good compromise, especially in a dense urban setting, though with concerns about carbon reduction should see even that activity banned eventually.

Apart from this already being an activity that occurs in my neighborhood, I don't see any reason to further exacerbate the situation by allowing them through a bylaw. There are too many afternoons, evenings and late-nights where fires are lit, the smoke goes where it goes (often towards our house) and the revelers party on into the wee hours of the morning. All this is currently managed through the bylaw complaint process. There soon comes a time that city bylaw stops responding because it is too frequent an occurrence and bylaw officers have other things to do. Legalizing the activity will make it even harder for individual citizens to resolve.

In short, shelve this project and let it die a natural death.

Yves 19 days ago

Having a backyard fire is one of the few outdoor experiences we could potentially enjoy in our small yard. If neighbours are not bothered by it and they are done responsibly then I really think they should be permitted.

GFerguson 23 days ago

I am strongly against backyard fires in residential areas. Why should someone else's activity be allowed to affect the quality of life and health of their neighbours. The city should be applauded for bringing in the bylaw.
Please do not change it.

Charlie2 23 days ago

Backyard fires are allowed in Cambridge and Kitchener.
As long as people are respectful and there are parameters set so that the fires are safe, I don’t see the issue. I’m asthmatic and by having a fire doesn’t cause any issues provided I’m not standing within 2 ft of the direct smoke.

CathyDaly 23 days ago

I am absolutely in support of small backyard fires with reasonable setbacks and where burning is restricted to dry firewood.

CR 23 days ago

This is a complaint based by-law. People are having fires and for the most part by-law is not getting calls. I have fires, my neighbor has fires, we don't have them every night or even every weekend, but once and awhile when we want to spend a night outside we have a small, contained fire that is safe and enjoyable and doesn't disturb the peace. I think finding a way to permit fires, $100 a year that to renew allows the fire department a list of who is having safe legal fires. Covid has changed everything, people won't rush back to crowded movie theaters or bars, people will spend more time at home and with close friends. Allowing those in Waterloo who are already having fires and want to do it legally shouldn't be an issue.

JGM 23 days ago

I understand the desire for open fires to congregate and roast marshmallows and all the good feelings this activity generates. As an asthmatic, I am firmly against allowing open fires in our community for health reasons. A propane or gas fire table does not generate the same smoke as wood/garbage burning and you can still have your roasted marshmallows and camp songs and make memories. Those of us with lung issues need to be able to breathe in our yards and take walks in our neighbourhoods without fear for our health. Please don't make us live indoors with our windows closed isolated from our friends and neighbours just because you want an open fire pit.

Penrose 26 days ago

Since the dawn of time, people have gathered around fires to share experiences and stories, bond, enjoy the outdoors and to dream. As someone with 3 young children I want to be able to have these experiences with my children in the backyard around a campfire on a summer's night, to roast marshmallows over an open fire and enjoy one another's companies away from our computers and technology. A propane fire does not even come close to the experience of a wood fire. It is unfair that our neighbours in Kitchener can do this and unreasonable to have such restrictions placed on us reducing the enjoyment that we might have in our backyard.

CP1 29 days ago

I am grateful to the city for allowing comments so we can all see different needs/concerns. Prior to reading these I was very keen on having backyard fires. But now I see more fully benefits/drawbacks. Foremost for me are:

1-own enjoyment
2-social enjoyment
3-mental health (including above & relaxation)

1-limits fresh air, especially among low income (small yards, apartments, lack AC, can't just up& move)
2-health concern, not just COPD but also others w/ invisible/visible conditions linked to breathing
3-mental health (lack of being able to ensure safe air in one's own home, &/or feeling trapped with closed windows)

Because these drawbacks put a disproportionate burden on people that already struggle enough, my opinion is that the drawbacks outweigh the benefits. I do think the benefits of backyard fires are important, but the cost is non-negligible, and (IMO) not well-enough justified when there are alternative sources for mental wellbeing.

I would be supportive of backyard fires if we could develop ways to adequately overcome these drawbacks for everyone, because I do love a good wood fire, but I don't know how we can do that yet, and so I favor finding alternatives. For example:

The city could explore is setting up outdoor fire circle sites, whereby residents could register to use one of 20 (or more) small sites set up in the large open spaces in Waterloo Parks & Parking Lots across the city. These sites could be demarcated to allow for sufficient space between multiple fire pits in the same location (e.g. if there were 10 set up at one park). People could bring their own portable chairs or blankets & marshmallows as desired. This idea could be seen as an expansion of the existing community campfires program...but allowing for smaller informal/impromptu groups. Or it could be a completely separate program with simple on-line registration options.

It would be great if the city could pilot such a program, maybe this summer/fall?, in order to determine any issues/ways to improve.

(p.s. I'm leaving environment out of the drawbacks as I am suggesting fires in other locations.)

kat22 about 1 month ago

Waterloo was wise to do what it did when it put the ban in place and many in other cities are envious. How sad when individuals say they will do what they want and have fires even if bylaw forbit it. Perhaps this is a caring citizen, concerned, respectful and no doubt law abiding in every other way. It seems easier to manage, charge, convict violators based on a no fire situation than one based on a violation of one of any restrictions attached to a changed bylaw. Don't change, stand up for the wisdom of the ban for the greater good.

jcl about 1 month ago

We are at the head of the pack and lets not go backwards and move to the most liberal city someone can find. Let others come up to our reasonable standards. Stand firm Waterloo.

jcl about 1 month ago

We have a lawn watering bylaw that residents do NOT follow. Residents still do not know how to recycle properly, nor know when 'garbage day' is. Do you think they would follow a backyard fire pit bylaw (however it is written up)? Although the original thought of having fires in the winter is good, year-round will create more enemies than friends within neighbourhoods.

Bearro about 1 month ago

We are against backyard fires. Our neighbour has a chiminey and burns wood in it for his fires. They start off with a lot of smoke that enters our house if the windows are even slightly open. It's hard to get rid of the smell!

norma and jim about 1 month ago