Proposed brush-burning pause to be run by Dundas Federation of Agriculture, Wednesday night

File photo of an open-air fire in Dundas County during the summer of 2016. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

WINCHESTER — North Dundas Township’s proposed ban on brush-pile fires during the seven warmer months of year is likely to spark some discussion when municipal officials address the subject with farmers this week.

The proposed ban on igniting wood and brush leftover from land-clearing operations would apply May 1 through Nov. 30, says North Dundas Fire Commissioner Al Armstrong, who plans to attend this Wednesday evening’s meeting of the Dundas Federation of Agriculture in Chesterville.

The township’s Fire Chiefs’ Steering Committee recently recommended that council pass a bylaw to that effect, although Councillor Tony Fraser, himself a Winchester firefighter, says the chiefs have been discussing the idea for three years.

The township currently has a burn permit regime, unrestricted by time of year.

Public complaints about smoky air last summer helped stoke policymakers’ more determined look at tightening the rules in North Dundas.

While acknowledging council’s awareness of an extended burn that took place in the vicinity of County Rd. 43 and Inkerman Rd. in 2016, Fraser wouldn’t attribute the current policy push to that event in particular. “I don’t think it would be fair to that farmer to say that was the cause.”

As much as anything else, Councillor Armstrong chalked up the proposal to a shortage of available fire department personnel to inspect brush piles before permits are issued in the busy summer months. He conceded no other municipalities in the area have attempted to restrict burning to such a degree, but Armstrong — noting he isn’t a firefighter — said he couldn’t question the local chiefs for bringing the recommendation forward.

Backdrop to the suggested annual brush-burning pause is an ongoing public debate about diminishing tree cover in the area as more farmland is brought into production. A newly established South Nation Conservation committee has begun studying the deforestation issue with the potential to recommend countermeasures — possibly even a municipal tree-cutting bylaw — in the watershed later this spring.