South Glengarry to recover cost for Glen Road ag fire

South Glengarry Deputy Mayor Lyle Warden and Coun. Sam McDonell listen to Fire Chief Dave Robertson (not shown) during a council meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019. The deputy mayor and councillor believe the township should recover its costs to respond to an out of control agricultural fire on Glen Road last month. McDonell called the actions of the farmer 'sheer ignorance.' (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

LANCASTER – South Glengarry will move to recoup its costs after a farmer’s out of control agricultural burn on Glen Road last month.

The burn in mid-September led to complaints from residents – some trapped in their homes from the smoke. The fire department also had to be called out and the roads department had to shut down Glen Road due to visibility.

Fire Chief Dave Robertson says the farmer had been instructed to set fire to a limited number of slash piles but instead, a 10 acre section of brush was burned, leading to clouds of smoke.

During Tuesday’s council meeting, Deputy Mayor Lyle Warden asked for a review of the burning bylaw but also wanted the farmer held accountable. “It’s 100 per cent warranted. It was so damn smokey…a total disaster.”

Chief Robertson says the bylaw is “working very well” but this was “one case” where it was a “significant issue.” The chief says he has good relations with other farmers doing burns but there was “not a good relationship with the landowners” in this particular case.

Between the roads department and the fire department, the cost to the municipality to respond to the Glen Road burn was upwards of $2,500.

Mayor Frank Prevost, who received calls on the day of the fire while he was in British Columbia, said the township has the law on its side and it needs to make sure people know they can’t get away with this. “At some point we have to take a stand,” he said.

Coun. Martin Lang, a farmer, said the agricultural community is not happy about what happened. “They are not going to support him.”

Coun. Stephanie Jaworski seemed reluctant to go after the farmer, saying the situation was “disappointing,” but then agreed with the rest of council that “we should follow through.”

The farmer has since had their burning permit revoked.

It’s been about 15 years since the township has gone after an individual for cost recovery associated with an out-of-control burn, council heard.