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Fire tables and pits are off-limits in New Westminster

If a quiet night around the campfire is your idea of a pleasant way to spend an evening, you may have an unexpected visit from local firefighters.

If a quiet night around the campfire is your idea of a pleasant way to spend an evening, you may have an unexpected visit from local firefighters.

Although many retailers sell a variety of campfire tables, including some wood-burning pits and propane-fuelled fire tables, these devices aren’t permitted under the City of New Westminster’s fire protection bylaw. One local family discovered that for themselves on a recent Friday night.

“We were having a fire in our little fire bowl, burning some wood in our backyard on a cement patio. I guess someone had complained or the fire department noticed and, over our neighbour’s fence, one of the captains of the fire department asked us to put out the fire,” Queen’s Park resident Geoff Pomper recently told the Record. “He was very polite about it. He said, ‘You have to put out the fire; they are not allowed in the city.’”

Pomper, who was enjoying a quiet night around the fire with his wife and their two sons, was surprised by the visit, as they’d used the fire pit a number of times in the past and had no issues.

“We took out the garden hose and hosed it down. And that was that,” he said. “It was all contained within the fire pit. We have a wire cover over it. It wasn’t like a big bonfire.”

Pomper said he has smelled campfires and seen the glow of fires in back yards of other homes in the city.

“It’s kind of fun to be outside, especially at times like this when you are with your family and looking for something to do,” he said. “It’s something fun. It’s something I kind of remember from my childhood – getting outside and having a campfire, maybe having some marshmallows, that kind of thing. Just the smell of the wood, the warm glow of the fire – it’s fun.”

According to the City of New Westminster’s fire protection bylaw, outdoor burning and campfires are prohibited unless the fire is contained in a portable appliance or device, except where the fire is contained within a portable appliance or device that is solely used for the cooking and preparation of food and is fueled by propane, natural gas or charcoal.

Assistant deputy fire chief Rob Dick of New Westminster Fire and Rescue Services said he’s taken several calls regarding the use of fire tables in New Westminster.

“The fire protection bylaw currently says you can’t have them,” he said. “I always refer people to the fire protection bylaw. That is what it comes down to. Can we take a look at our bylaw? Yeah, absolutely we can.”

While some cities have bylaws similar to New Westminster, other communities are more lenient. The City of Burnaby’s fire services bylaw allows natural gas or propane fuelled outdoor heating appliances to be used, such as umbrella style heaters, fire pits and fireplaces, provided they are Canadian Standards Association or Underwriters Laboratory of Canada approved and are used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Pomper thinks it’s time for New Westminster to reevaluate its bylaw and lighten it up a bit.

“I am sure it has happened to other people,” he said. “I think there has to be a little bit of give and take, especially in times like this. We were just trying to get outside, enjoy the weather and do something a little bit different instead of sitting in front of the boob tube.”