Langford Coun. Lillian Szpak and Langford Fire Chief Bob Beckett help Szpak’s neighbour Don Jacobson gather yard waste for the chipper. Jacobson has been chipping and composting his leaves and branches for decades as an alternative to burning

No rogue waste burners in Langford so far, says fire chief

Newest stage of city burning bylaw being met with respect, Szpak says

Langford’s new burning regulations, implemented last month, have proven to be a breath of fresh air, quite literally.

Since burning season opened Nov. 1, the fire department has not received a single air quality complaint, a drastic improvement from previous years.

“Every season for the last 12 years on council, I would get dozens of air quality complaints,” said Langford councillor and protective services committee chair Lillian Szpak.

To be specific, there were 208 official complaints to the fire department in the burning seasons from late 2012 to early 2014, and that doesn’t include all the emails and phone calls Szpak and other city councillors received personally.

“And not just the people with health problems. I was hearing from people who had just relocated to Langford, and when they realized we allowed burning here, they were horrified,” she said. “They would be coming back from downtown and see this haze of smoke over Langford.”

Mayor and council listened to what the majority of residents were asking for, Szpak added, and started taking steps to reform burning. “Langford’s not the rural, outlying community anymore. We’re much more urbanized, and we’ve made our focus family and community.”

The process to move from open burning to a more city-friendly process for dealing with yard waste began several years ago, with gradual steps to shorten the burning season, reduce the number of days to burn within the season and the imposition of more stringent restrictions.

“You want to be respectful when you’re bringing about a change,” Szpak said.

“It was about a year ago that council decided it was time to take the next step,” said Langford Fire Chief Bob Beckett of the most recent regulation changes. “And the level of co-operation has been great. We just have not had folks trying to skirt the new regulations. I think the community recognizes what we’re trying to achieve: clean air.”

As an alternative to burning, the City of Langford and the fire department are encouraging residents to take advantage of the Three Cs: chipping, composting and commercial disposal. The city did look into a municipal drop-off centre several years ago, but the overall costs were too high, Szpak said.

“It would have resulted in a two-per-cent tax increase per household, and that’s a lot of money. We’re very mindful of (not) piling costs on our taxpayers.”

She noted, too, that households without much use for a yard waste drop-off, such as condos and apartments, would be subsidizing the centres. “It would just be unfair. (The way it is now), it’s leaving it up to the residents to use their resources as they see fit.”

The burning regulations can be found at cityoflangford.ca, or for more information, call Langford Fire Rescue at 250-478-7770.

acowan@goldstreamgazette.com