Marshmallows on stocks being held over a campfire

Proposed Open Fire Ban; Moving towards a Dog Control Service

Regional Director Mark Vonesch brought two Cortes Island motions before the SRD Board on Wednesday, September 13. Both were passed with no opposing votes. The first was to draw up an Open Burning Bylaw in the parts of Cortes Island within the South Cortes Fire Protection Area. However the electorate needs to approve the second item, a proposed Dog Control Service. 

Vonesch was on the way home, waiting in the ferry line-up at Heriot Bay, when he spoke with Cortes Currents:

Mark Vonesch, Regional Director of Cortes Island – courtesy SRD

Many Cortes Islanders will remember early on in the summer when we had a fire ban by the province that was very appropriate.  I think everyone agreed with that.  Then it got lifted for about a week or so. We had not received any additional rain and we were still dry. In fact: we were probably drier and it got lifted! It shocked me and it shocked a lot of people. I got a bunch of emails and phone calls. People were concerned.” 

“So I contacted the province and asked if they can make an exemption for Cortes and have the fire ban remain.  They said that  we are part of the Sunshine Coast Fire District and apparently the Sunshine Coast had gotten some rain and it was appropriate for them to lift it for that short time.” 

“The case I was making was that we’ve not received any more rain and it’s not appropriate for us to have a fire ban lifted. It puts us in danger.”

“They told me that the only way that we can override that ban is if we implement a bylaw that allows us to override their decision.”

“So I went back to the SRD  and made a motion  for us to start creating this bylaw. Basically, it’s going to allow us to make the call. If a fire ban gets lifted, our fire chief  can assess the situation and make a recommendation to SRD staff, likely the emergency response person, and then that SRD staff person has the ability through the bylaw to maintain the ban.” 

“In this increasing time of drought and fires, it puts the control into the hands of Cortes Islanders and allows us to make decisions that are good for us.”

This Bylaw applies to the South Cortes Fire Protection Area, not to the northern part of the island or the Western shore of Gorge Harbour, but Director Vonesch explained that the protection area is now larger than what is shown in the 1990 map displayed on the SRD website.

MV: “We do have a contract with Klahoose to provide fire service, that’s part of the fire department’s area of protection.”

There has also been talk of bringing Tiber Bay within the Fire Service Area. 

MV: “I think that’s being held up by an access issue.  What I’ve been told is that everybody needs to upgrade their road in order to be able to make it accessible to the fire department.”

“We’re facing a growing threat of fires. There was a fire on Quadra a few weeks ago that was out of control for almost 24 hours. It’s a scary situation. We’ve seen it across the province; we’ve seen it across the country. At some point, we’re going to be facing a fire. It’s quite likely and we’ve got to be ready.” 

“I’m really heartened by the reinvigoration of the fire department, the leadership and their preparations in terms of the volunteers that they’re bringing on board, but also forming a new brigade that is in response to a wildfire that happened in mid August, a training for, I think, 16 new people.  That is really exciting, and I think it’s just really important  for the safety of our community.” 

The second bylaw is the next step towards setting  up a Dog Control Service. The SRD must now seek approval from the electorate. 

MV: “This is a highly contentious issue; It’s a troubling story.  As many people know, within a couple of days there were  two dog attacks.One killed a couple’s small dogs quite tragically, and then two days later, another dog attacked a horse and that horse had to be put down. down. There’s quite rightly an uproar and concern around folks on the island that have dogs that are scary for other people or in some cases, hurting or killing dogs and  chasing animals.”

“I was lobbied to create  a bylaw to deal with the situation. What I’ve done is asked SRD staff  to form that bylaw. In order for a dog bylaw to go into place, we have to create a new service.  Whenever a new service comes into play, it has to go through a process that includes public consultation.”

“Right now we’re at the stage where the question is going to come to Cortes. Do we want  a dog bylaw service? That service that would allow us to put in  bylaws for this issue. So that’s going to be coming to Cortes in the next few months through an AAP process (Alternative Approval Process), which means that if you disagree with having the bylaw, you don’t want to have a dog control service on Cortes, then you write in and register your dissent to it.  If 10% of the electorate* write in against it, then the bylaw does not happen. So, it gives a chance for the community to give input and make the decision on whether this bylaw moves forward. 

CC: What would a dog control service look like, in terms of regulations?

MV: “Those details would be worked out after the service gets approved. There’s a whole range of what’s possible, when you look at other municipalities and other areas.”

“This is probably some way for people to report to the RCMP problem dogs. That would probably be the simplest. The most complex would be having to have dogs on leashes in all public places. I’m not sure that’s something Cortes wants.”

“I’m leaving it up to the consultation process, for Cortes Islanders to decide.”

Top photo credit: Roasting marshmellows – Photo by Leon Contreras on Unsplash 

*Correction: I originally wrote 10% of the population, which is wrong – it is 10% of the electorate.

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