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Dampened concerns smoulder for proposed Tay fire academy burn site

Public meeting for Southwest Fire Academy training facility addressed resident concerns of clean wood burning and offsite disposal from watershed
A public meeting for 1420 Newton Street was held recently to discuss the proposed temporary use bylaw for permitting a fire burn site and training area by Southwest Fire Academy. Planning and development services manager Todd Weatherell (top row, right) provided to Tay council and members of the public an overlay of a draft site plan onto an aerial image of the property.

If firefighters are good at any one thing, it’s putting out fires.

A public meeting was held recently regarding 1420 Newton Street in Tay, a nearly 100-acre agricultural parcel of land requesting a temporary use bylaw for permitting a fire burn site and training area for Waubaushene-based career college Southwest Fire Academy (SFA).

Of the three existing ponds on the property, the site plan from Celeste Phillips Planning Inc. (CPPI) for the SFA was looking to establish the fire burn site and training area adjacent to the pond closest to Newton Street. On site are a dry hydrant to be connected to the fire trucks, and sea containers for storage of burn materials; a dumpster would be used for offsite disposal of used materials.

Concerns came from several residents in the form of correspondence prior to the public meeting, which planning and development services manager Todd Weatherell addressed.

“Because a lot of the comments are based on safety, smoke, species at risk, environmental, water runoff, and watershed issues,” Weatherell explained, “I’m not going to read all of them, but those are the majority of the comments prepared.

“They have concerns on the type of wood that they’re looking at burning and whether or not it contains a methobromide. They’re looking at concerns of the water source. Will it affect the natural water course of the watershed? One comment was that the application for three years is too long and should only be for one year.”

CPPI planner Celeste Phillips, meanwhile, stated that in addition to setting up a meeting with the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) to work through requirements made by the province, she had also sent out a fact sheet to each correspondent which provided many answers and clarifications to their concerns.

Tay resident Darren Todd called in to ask how many gallons of water would be used during the four days per month the SFA would be using the site over the requested three-year period.

SFA president Gord Roesch calculated that at a maximum estimated 3,785 litres or 1,000 gallons per training day, the rough estimate over three years would be 475,000 litres of water, which wouldn’t contain any chemicals from the clean wood or straw used in the exercises, and which would be filtered through gravel before returning to the watershed.

“It’s just the volume’s a lot higher (than natural water effluency),” Todd reasoned with agreement from Roesch.

“When we do the fires, we generally don’t use a lot of water because we want the fire to burn hot; that is the whole point is for the students experiencing the heat,” explained Roesch. In regards to the chemical-free clean wood and straw, Roesch added, “It’s no different from materials that we’re burning that would be allowed in the current burn bylaw.”

Coun. Jeff Bumstead drilled further into questions left unanswered, such as an apparent discrepancy of 10 to 12 days per month listed in the CPPI planning justification report, contradicted by the four days noted elsewhere. Roesch replied that two days would be used for boot camp with extra days available for other courses, with additional uses offered to local fire departments as a live fire facility.

Deputy Mayor Gerard LaChapelle brought up the MECP requirements which would need to be met before site plan approval could be considered, “because this is going to answer everybody’s questions.”

Staff will provide a report and recommendations at a future meeting of council.

For further information on the Southwest Fire Academy temporary use bylaw, staff encouraged the public to contact Weatherell through email at [email protected].

The proposed Southwest Fire Academy temporary use bylaw, the CPPI planning justification report, and all correspondence including MECP requirements can be viewed within the planning act public meeting agenda on the township website.

Tay council meets for regular council meetings every fourth Wednesday of the month. Further information including council’s agenda can be found on the Tay township website.

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Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Derek Howard covers Midland and Penetanguishene area civic issues under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada.
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