Wood-burning fireplaces like this one may be targeted by Metro Vancouver in an attempt to improve regional air quality.

Wood smoke is new burning issue in Metro’s crosshairs

Household fireplaces and wood stoves may face new restrictions

After fielding complaints for years about homes that burn firewood and smoke up the surrounding neighbourhood, Metro Vancouver says it will consider new regulations to help clear the air.

No decisions have been made on exactly what approach to take, but regional district staff have concluded wood smoke from home fireplaces and stoves may pose a significant health risk.

“The options range from an outright ban in urban areas to things like ensuring wood stoves meet certain emissions standards or having burning limited to so many days per month,” said Ray Robb, Metro’s environmental regulation and enforcement division manager.

The region is working with the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser health authorities to get a better assessment of potential health impacts and the resulting study will be completed next year, helping guide decisions.

Metro gets about 90 wood smoke complaints a year.

A staff report said residential wood burning can lead to spikes in fine particulate levels in neighbourhoods and accounts for an estimated 16 per cent of all fine particulate emissions in the region, compared to 10 per cent coming from all large permitted industries.

But officials believe wood smoke causes an even higher proportion of harm to health because the emissions happen close to where people live and chimneys aren’t designed to dissipate smoke.

“These two factors combined result in a relatively high fraction of wood smoke finding its way into human lungs,” the report said.

Elevated particulate levels from wood smoke tend to happen in West Vancouver, Vancouver, Surrey, Richmond and Port Coquitlam, the report said, and exposure is highest when people burn in dense urban neighbourhoods.

Not everyone is convinced action is needed.

Langley City Coun. Gayle Martin, the vice-chair of Metro’s environment and parks committee, said Metro should leave the issue up to individual cities to regulate, if they wish.

“I don’t think Metro Vancouver needs to ban wood smoke,” she said, adding her city rarely gets complaints on the issue.

“Look at wood smoke compared to vehicles,” Martin said. “Do you plan on banning vehicles? Are we going to ban something every time we get a complaint?”

Martin said the consumer trend appears to be away from wood fireplaces in favour of natural gas anyway.

More than 230 wood stoves or fireplaces in the region have been upgraded to cleaner models since 2009 through a provincially funded rebate program, but thousands of older ones remain in use.

New wood stoves and fireplaces now sold must meet B.C. standards and most are highly efficient and produce much less smoke than old models.

But even the newest models can be heavy polluters if people use wet, green wood, Robb noted.

The two health authorities in 2011 told Metro evidence to that point did not justify tighter regulations and that more research was needed.

Any new rules are expected to be lenient on residents who use wood as their sole source of heat.

Robb said Metro wants to strike up a dialogue with residents on how it should proceed and what new rules would be supported.

He predicted the region will focus on education and take a gradual, slow approach.

“Things change,” he said. “If you asked 100 years ago if people might not be allowed to smoke in a restaurant, they’d say you were nuts.”

 

WOOD BURNING

  • One third of Metro households had a wood-burning fireplace or stove as of 2010.
  • Two-thirds of those are used regularly.
  • Half of users don’t burn for heat, but mainly for ambiance, entertainment or to get rid of garbage.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UPDATE: All-cat fight at Surrey RCMP Classic final Saturday night

Guildford Park beats Semiahmoo, ending Totems’ three-year championship run

Truck fire in Surrey destroys generator bound for Uganda missions trip, GoFundMe started

Glen Alexander says his ‘Jesus is Lord’ vehicle has been target of vandalism before

Fire truck, police car hit in chain of crashes on Hwy. 99 in South Surrey

‘People weren’t paying attention,’ says Surrey assistant fire chief

Chilliwack man who sexually assaulted young boys released from prison

Statutory release for Don Putt who Parole Board calls an ‘untreated sex offender’

Greedy family’s maid overcomes them all in Surrey Little Theatre’s latest play

‘The Late Christopher Bean’ is staged at Clayton-area theatre for a month starting Jan. 23

VIDEO: Cold snap brings ideal conditions for Okanagan icewine

Take an inside look at how icewine is made

PHOTOS: Eastern Newfoundland reeling, search underway for missing man after blizzard

More than 70 centimetres of new snow fell overnight, creating whiteout conditions

Prince Harry, Meghan to give up ‘royal highness’ titles

‘Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family,’ says Queen Elizabeth II

Canada Post driver in hospital after ice smashes windshield at Massey Tunnel

Incident happened on Richmond side of the Massey Tunnel

B.C. society calls out conservation officer after dropping off bear cub covered in ice

Ice can be seen in video matted into emaciated bear cub’s fur

Calls for dialogue as Coastal GasLink pipeline polarizes some in northern B.C.

Coastal GasLink is building the 670-kilometre pipeline from British Columbia’s northeast to Kitimat on the coast

Coquihalla, Highway 3 to be hit with freezing rain, sparking warning to commuters

Hard to say when the freezing rain will turn to regular rainfall, Environment Canada says

VIDEO: Newbie Vancouver Giants leads victory over Victoria 4-1 Friday

The G-Men play Saturday in Victoria before hosting Kamloops on home ice in Langley Sunday afternoon

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

Most Read