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Outdoor wood-burners a potential air quality issue

posted 30 Mar 2010, 16:26 by .: aaqg :.
Outdoor wood-burners or chmineas may become more popular in Australia since they have featured in lifestyle programs and magazines such as Better Homes and Gardens and Burke's Backyard. However from the experiences in the U.S. and Canada, they look like they could become yet another source of air pollution in suburban neighbourhoods.

In Barrie, Ontario, the City Council has been keeping close tabs on them for the last couple of years - neighbour complaints, by-law infractions and the amount of time firefighters spend attending to and sorting through the complaints.  They take up a lot of time and money and also take fire crews away from more important matters, says Deputy Fire Chief Rick Monkman.  The matter goes before council again on April 12.  If council votes to ban the appliances, it's likely to take effect January 1st, 2012, a little under two years from now, which Monkman says is the the average life-span of the devices before they start deteriorating.

Some councils prohibit outdoor burning anyway. In Elmira (New York), Fire Marshal William Wheeler, reminds city residents that free-standing outdoor fire pits and chimeneas -- front-loading fireplaces or ovens with a bulbous body and vertical smoke vent or chimney -- are illegal if they are wood-burning. Those that are fueled by natural gas, propane or charcoal, however, are allowed because they are smoke-free, he said. Smoke pollution is the main issue, and since the chimneys are usually 6 to 8 feet from the ground, there is going to be a pollution problem, he said.

Wood smoke is not just a nuisance. For people with medical problems like asthma, bronchitis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, it can be a health hazard, he said. "It's not that we don't believe that responsible people can have a fire in a fire pit with a screened cover on it and do it safely. The idea is that the neighbor next door can't open his bedroom windows," Wheeler said. "We're not out in the country."

Open burning has always been pretty much prohibited in the city, he said. The fire prevention section in the city code of ordinances was changed in 2004 because it became apparent the city was experiencing an influx of outdoor wood-burning devices that mostly did not follow air pollution requirements as regular wood stoves do, he said.

Reference: Barrie Examiner 29 March 2010
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