The Venting Index reflects the potential of the atmosphere to disperse smoke and other pollutants. “Good” means the smoke is more likely to disperse; “poor” indicates the pollution will be much more likely to hang or drop to lower elevations.
All burning releases many different toxins and fine particulate matter that can enter into our bodies, creating a range of health impacts. And it instantly releases all of the stored carbon in the wood, contributing significantly to climate change.
Unfortunately, such burning remains legal in many areas of the Comox Valley (i.e. outside of municipal boundaries). Yard waste fires (which are locally regulated) and larger open burns (which are provincially regulated) still occur particularly in the spring and fall.
BC requires following of Venting Index
BC regulates burning of any materials bigger than small branches and leaves. These burns must follow provincial regulations which require paying attention to the Venting Index before lighting the fire. Learn more about BC’s rules for open burning.
There are also 3 different ‘smoke sensitivity zones’ that have different rules for burning. View the map for the smoke sensitivity zones, with current day’s burning conditions, for the Comox Valley .
Please report illegal burns
Burning of anything greater than 10cm in diameter must abide by BC’s regulations about the venting index. If you think such a fire is illegal, please call into report it; this is the only way illegal burns will be stopped. To learn more about the rules, read the information BC provides for people who burn.
You should call (not email) the BC RAPP Line and state that there is a “violation in progress”. You will need to provide a precise location so that they can send a Conservation Officer out to inspect. (If you email, the burn will be over by the time they deal with it). You will also need to provide your contact information but this will not be shared with the person burning!
Local rules for yard waste fires
While some local governments in BC make it illegal to burn yard waste fires during poor venting conditions, most Comox Valley regulations do not.
The only exception is the Northern Fire Protection Service Area covering Oyster River, Black Creek and Mount Washington. Yard fires are only allowed when the venting index is “good”. (If you see an illegal yard waste fire in this area, call the Oyster River Fire Department not the RAPP Line).
Each fire protection service area has its own rules and regulations for yard fires. Please find the appropriate bylaw for your area on CVRD’s bylaw page (hint: search for “fire”).
Find healthier alternatives
For those who continue to burn, whether indoors or outdoors, Breathe Clean Air strongly encourages people to find other, healthier alternatives. But in the meantime, the venting index should at least be “Good” before any fire is lit.