Open burning proceeds despite venting index

Shawn Fowler brings his machine around to check out his burn piles just south of 17th in Valemount. Smoke has been an issue in the village with pollution sometimes exceeding levels in Beijing. /ANDRU MCCRACKEN

by Andru McCracken

On Nov 5th the amount of noxious particulate in the air in Valemount reached levels outstripping Beijing.

According to epidemiologists like Sarah Henderson of the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, the particulate can increase the chance of heart attack and stroke and aggravate respiratory ailments.

On the morning of Nov 6th, smoking debris piles were spotted at a clearing just south of 17th Avenue.

Prince George Conservation Officer Leyland Klassen said he didn’t receive any complaints about the burning, but encouraged people to call if they see something.

“If you think there is a violation occurring you can always report it via the RAPP line,” said Klassen. The RAPP line (Report All Poachers and Polluters) is 1-877-952-7277.

“If people don’t make us aware of these issues, we don’t know.”

In the afternoon on Nov 6th, Shawn Fowler was on the site of the burn with a machine. He said he knew the ventilation index was poor, but that it was measured in McBride and didn’t correspond with local conditions.

“I’m trying to do the right thing,” said Fowler. “I am going with which way the wind blows.”

Fowler said people didn’t even know he was burning because the ventilation was good.

“If I could chip it, I would chip it. I can’t,” he said. “They are talking about a pellet plant. It’s not here.”

He said hauling it out won’t make a difference as it will just be burning somewhere else in the valley possibly creating even more smoke.

“At least I wait until it is clear and it’s going, you can see where it’s gone,” he said.

He said people don’t even know when he burns because the wind blows the smoke away from town.

Smoke hovered over Valemount Nov 6th. Several slash piles burned south of town. / ANDRU MCCRACKEN