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Comox officially bans installation of new wood-burning appliances

COMOX, B.C- Residents of Comox can’t install wood-burning furnaces anymore.

The ban is coming down from the town’s municipal government, who moved to enact a bylaw this week that will no longer allow the installation of wood burning appliances in new or existing constructions.

A news release from the town government described the move as building on previous steps taken by council to improve air quality, which included the elimination of backyard fires, beach fires, campfires, fires used for land clearing, and preventing the use of outdoor wood burning fireplaces and fire pits.

“Responding to our residents by taking steps to improve our air quality that contribute to the overall good health of our citizens is a priority of Council”, stated Mayor Russ Arnott, in the news release.

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“We are pleased to be able to do our part in reducing greenhouse gases as well as continuing in our efforts of establishing policy that promotes the overall good health of our citizens and residents of the Comox Valley”.

The bylaw, which is effective immediately, will only have one exception. If an existing wood burning appliance is upgraded, and replaced with a more efficient model, that will be allowed.

Speaking to the newsroom, Arnott said that council looked into how the ban would affect the community. They found that only three new builds would have been affected a year ago.

“It’s really not going to be a big detriment, for people,” said Arnott.

“I think people are moving away from that anyway, and we’re just saying no more wood burning devices in houses that don’t currently house them.”

He also believed the move was a first for the Valley.

“In the winter, you can see that with inversions that there is, at times, a heavy layer of smoke,” said Arnott.

“You have to remember, too, that our partner municipalities and regional district have a role to play too, any given time you can look across, and you can see slash being burned. It makes its way towards populated areas, and that is a problem in itself as well. Ours is a minor, little step, and hopefully the municipalities will look at that and move towards the same.”

The Comox Valley Regional District and the City of Courtenay both have existing incentive programs to encourage wood-burning appliance users to upgrade or replace their products.

As for what he would say to residents who disagreed with the move, Arnott said the city wasn’t taking anything away from them.

“We’re just saying we have to balance the needs of all our residents,” said Arnott.

“We’ve heard loudly that people are concerned about the increasing amount of smoke in the areas over the winter, and if you have a wood burning device, you can still use it. You can upgrade it, we’re not taking anything away that you already have.”

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