Canby Fire Clarifies Burn Ban: Recreational Fires OK if Smoke Doesn’t Affect Neighbors

The Canby Fire District has clarified the COVID-era burn ban that is now in effect for residents, in the wake of a more restrictive ban that drew the ire of many.

Starting Wednesday, agricultural for-profit burning and rural outdoor burning will generally be allowed from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., while backyard burning within city limits remains closed. Recreational fires are also OK, as long as “the smoke does not negatively impact your neighbors,” the fire district said.

Canby Fire on Twitter

BURN RESTRICTIONS FOR 4.8.20 *Agricultural for profit burning is allowed from 10am-6pm *Rural burning outside city limits is allowed from 10am-6pm *Backyard burning in the city remains closed *Recreational fires are okay if the smoke doesn’t negatively impact neighbors 5032661195

Initially, the district had announced a full ban on outdoor burning, including agricultural, backyard and even recreational burning such as fire pits.

Canby Fire Division Chief Matt English said the district’s decision had followed a statewide request for Oregonians to voluntarily refrain from burning, but had also been based on local concerns that had been shared with Canby Fire.

“There were concerns about it,” English said. “We’ve been getting calls. We actually got a call from a resident who was very concerned about one of their family members, who has asthma and is also being treated for COVID-19.”

Limiting smoke from outdoor fires in the midst of a global pandemic of a serious and even fatal respiratory illness does make sense. Smoke inhalation can cause upper respiratory symptoms that could be misdiagnosed as COVID-19, leading to unnecessary testing and the use of already scarce resources.

Because of the limited capacity of the health care system, many of those with more mild cases of the disease are recovering at home — like the family Division Chief English mentioned — and smoke from an outdoor burn could make their condition worse.

Exposure to smoke and other forms of air pollution can also increase the risk of contracting COVID-19, or increase the severity of existing respiratory conditions.

And finally, responding to an outdoor burn that gets out of control, or smoke complaints from neighbors, could distract from the ability of fire districts and other emergency services to provide critical medical care during the pandemic.

“It’s a balancing act,” English said. “We have to balance people who would like to burn and we have to balance those who have medical issues.”

The complete ban was not well-received on social media, with a number of residents who are abiding by the “Stay Home, Save Lives” orders and look forward to a small barbecue or outdoor marshmallow roast as a distraction from the many other ways we are not able to enjoy the great outdoors right now.

But English said that those he spoke with in person have all been understanding.

“Everybody I go out and talk to has been really good about receiving the message,” he said. “It’s actually been giving me a lot of hope and happiness for humankind.”

English, who has seen the previous epidemics of SARS, H1N1 and all the rest, said they don’t hold a candle to what we are experiencing now.

“This is definitely the epidemic of the century,” he said. “We’re only trying to do what’s best for the community, and trying to make everybody happy — which isn’t always easy.”

Help us build a sustainable news organization to serve Canby for generations to come! Let us know if you can support our efforts to expand our operations and keep all of our content paywall-free. #SwimWithTheCurrent!