Residents urged to stop backyard burning in North Cowichan, CVRD

Direction correlation seen from diminished air quality and need for medical services

The Municipality of North Cowichan and the Cowichan Valley Regional District are asking residents to refrain from burning yard debris during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leaders in health care are exploring preventative aspects to reduce the need for health services so that medications, health care providers and hospital space are available to those who need it most. With a direct correlation between increased physician visits and respiratory medication use as a result of diminished air quality, the impact of backyard burning on peoples’ health and the health care system at this time is critically important.

“In this unprecedented time, our focus as a community needs to be on supporting our health care system and health care workers,” noted North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring. “Backyard burning is known to contribute to poor air quality, which can put many of our most vulnerable population at greater respiratory risk. During this global pandemic, we all need to focus on the greater good of our neighbours and community, and so we’re urging you not to burn at this time.”

Backyard burning is only permitted in North Cowichan in limited circumstances, but those households that do meet the criteria to burn during the March 15-April 15 spring open burning window are being asked to compost at home, utilize a wood chipper, or take your yard waste, free of charge, to one of the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s recycling facilities, which remain open.

The CVRD is also urging residents to limit the use of wood stoves given the respiratory impact of COVID-19.

Backyard burning is permitted in CVRD electoral areas between March 15 and April 15 when the venting index is ‘good,’ but the CVRD and regional medical health officer are urging residents not to burn and consider the health of their neighbours.

“It is critical that we not elevate the risk for anyone who may be experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, and local air quality is imperative given the nature of this virus,” said Dr. Shannon Waters, medical health officer for the Cowichan Valley region. “Like social distancing and washing our hands, this is a very simple action that we can take to make our community safer and lessen the burden on our health system during a very uncertain time.”

CVRD recycling centres accept yard waste free of charge. The City of Duncan, Town of Ladysmith and Town of Lake Cowichan do not permit open burning at any time of year.

With warmer weather returning, residents are asked to limit the use of their wood stoves, particularly in densely-populated areas where chimney smoke can have an immediate effect on neighbourhood air quality.

The CVRD has a wealth of material related to regional air quality on its website, including a real-time air quality map of the Cowichan region. To learn more visit www.cvrd.bc.ca/cleartheair.

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