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Description: Campfires are cancelled in Ward 18 by the Parks Supervisor, after 13 years of safe operation by community and staff members.
Hi, I would like to have fire department permission to hold a cooking fire every Sunday at Wallace Emerson AIR/Park.
This fire will be to the left of the pleasure pad on a dirt area south of the building.
The fire will be supervised at all times by Parks Forestry and Recreation staff. All necessary extinguishers will be available.
The fires will occur every Sunday till the end of February from noon to 6pm
Please let me know if you have any concerns.
Tino said that he found out the cooking fire is supposed to be 30 metres from any building -- not possible at Wallace Rink -- he'll follow up.
As you know, there's been a three-location campfire permit at Dufferin Grove park for 13 years. In 1993, the friends of the park collaborated with Parks&Rec and the Fire safety chief to try out campfires (cooking fires) as a community-building tool. It worked so well since then, that in the past year the recreation staff who do the Dufferin Grove campfires have sometimes gone to other parks to help out with similar community campfires.
Safety is vital, and fortunately, in those 13 years and many hundreds of cooking fires, there has never been an injury. Over that time, the staff and park users have learned some things about what works best. One important safety consideration is to locate a campfire in an area that has wind protection, to control the flames. At Wallace Rink, choosing a location 30 metres away from the building, but still where skaters can get at it, means there's no wind protection.
In addition, that would place the campfire much further away from a source of water and from the extra staff available nearer the building. Since the campfire is actually a cooking fire, the campfire staff need to be near enough to other rink staff that they can call for more hot dogs, marshmallows, clean cups for the hot chocolate, etc., without themselves having to leave the fire location. Also the fire has to be small, so the hot dogs don't burn, so that means we can't have a lot of wind fanning the flames.
Our Wallace Rink campfire location is about 10 metres from the concrete edge of the swimming pool building. That way we get the wind protection we need. We burn hardwood, no softwood and no paper, and there are seldom sparks that travel more than a few inches. The campfire site is on snow and frozen earth. We have the means right beside the fire to extinguish the fire within one minute or less. (Note that we call this a campfire because it is never a bonfire -- it's built for cooking, not pyrotechnics.)
Please forward the text of this message to the fire safety staff. If there is any difficulty, could we have a quick site meeting with them? Councillor Adam Giambrone's assistant Chris Gallop is going to be at Wallace Rink for another meeting on Friday at 10 a.m. -- if a meeting is desired, perhaps we could meet there just before?
Sounds to me like they are going to issue the permit. If I am wrong, keep me posted and I'll be happy to see if I can help.
Jutta, as per this mornings meeting, all cooking fires in Ward 18 are to stop.
Chris, I will try to set up a meeting next week with all the necessary parties in order to reach a resolution.
This will include, Fire Department permission , Parks designating areas that are appropriate at all Ward 18 Parks with approval and Customer Service issuing permits.
Presently we have(or had) fires at the following parks; MacGregor Park Campbell Park Dovercourt Park Wallace Park Dufferin Grove Park. Please let me know if I have missed a location.
Once this approval is given, all staff involved with fires will receive training, on how to use extinguishers, set up fires, supervise and clean up fires.
Sounds good Tino.
Councillor Giambrone spoke to Fire Division Chief Gerrard about this this afternoon, and he agreed that Fire would be happy to work with Parks & Rec to identify safe sites for the camp fires at all the Ward 18 parks and to walk you through their requirements for getting the needed permits issued. Just let them know the time and place next week and they will make sure someone from Fire is there.
Obviously Parks staff need to be there as well, but I think it is also important to have Jutta, Tino and the other Rec staff there who have been supervising these fires in the past, so that they can provide feedback to Fire and Parks staff about what they have been doing, so that everyone is fully informed and a site at each park can hopefully be identified that both addresses Fire and Park's safety concerns, while also meeting Recreation's programming needs.
It would also be very helpful if someone could clarify, for Councillor Giambrone and I, what the existing policy is on camp fires / cooking fires in Parks, and any other relevant legislation or policy, so that we can get a better sense of the legislative and policy context of this issue.
Given the success and enormous popularity of the campfire program in the past, I hope we can all agree that the sooner we sort this out and get the needed approvals in place for campfire sites that are both safe and fun, the better.
Thank you Tino.
I have heard that a City staff person told someone that these campfires are being stopped because we set a tree on fire in Dufferin Grove park.
If anyone says that to you, please ask them to tell you where they got that information, since I may want to contact my lawyer and take action for slander.
I would like to emphasize that the experts in safe, successful park campfires are the people who have done them now for many years. That includes me, and also the senior park staff who have used these campfires so successfully for community-building. So, no back-room, fait-accomplit planning, please. We will need to be at the table when any new regulations are discussed. That also allows me to communicate these deliberations to all the many other community people who have successfully made campfires in Dufferin Grove Park, campgrounds, etc. for many years. And it allows your senior rink/ park staff to give accurate information to the community people whose gatherings have been cancelled.
Jutta, I will make sure you are aware of the meeting.
Thanks Tino. But I don't want to be peering in through the keyhole. Time for some courtesy, even toward a person the fire captain refers to as "an imbecile."
Good cripes. You surely must tire...
Sorry to disturb your frozen Friday, however we have stumbled into an odd situation in Ward 18 namely that all the campfires and cooking fires at all our freezing parks have been stopped purportedly due to an camp fire at the Wallace arena which disturbed a local fire captain, for some reason (there was no damage, no issues) .
Since the gang a at Dufferin Grove have gone thru 13 years without incident in terms of campfires and use it as an essential means to gather the community we are always talking about , could one of your staff the Toronto fire service and get this ban lifted immediately.
Already events are being cancelled due to the ban. Thank for your attention
Hi Rebecca. as you heard at the rink this morning, all campfires at all neighbourhood parks have been cancelled, and so your gathering can't take place.
The immediate excuse is that last weekend, park staff made a campfire near a pine tree beside Wallace Rink. The snow on the ground was so icy that anywhere else was too treacherous for skaters to get to, and since the campfire was our usual small fire, and the tree branch above it was high up, and the staff's use of hardwood prevented sparks, there was no damage to the tree. A senior park staff was in attendance all the time, and she would have been able to put out the fire in less than a minute if any problem had developed.
However, the fire captain who came to Wallace Rink today said that anyone who would make a fire near a tree is "an imbecile," and therefore he would not consider any more fire permits at Wallace Rink, nor at Dufferin Grove either.
The parks supervisor, Peter Leiss, had contacted the fire staff previously because he is concerned that the campfires are not following proper procedure. In 1993 we worked with Ted Scovell, the previous fire safety chief, to establish the campfire routines, and we've had a yearly fire permit for 13 years. But sometime after 2000, the yearly renewal process became more and more confusing. I just found out that a couple of years ago, the Parks and Recreation Permits section stopped granting any campfire permits at all, in other parks in the city.
Peter Leiss is also concerned that if anyone is hurt, he would be liable. (This was also the reason he banned all children from participating in any way in last summer's bio-toilet cobbing project, before the public meeting that changed that decision.)
In over 1000 campfires at Dufferin Grove since 1993, there has been no incident of injury. Both the Dufferin Grove staff and park friends are by now the (unacknowledged) experts in building community through campfires, and safely. If you would like to contact your representative to give your input to the campfire discussion, you can contact
Councillor_Giambrone@toronto.ca or call him at 416 392-0913.
Also you can contact the mayor's office if you wish, at Mayor_Miller@toronto.ca or call that office at 416-397-CITY (2489).
It's my suggestion to wait on contacting the media. For now, it might be better to pass this along to all your campfire friends. The politicians need to have feedback on how their constituents see this proliferation of what-if rules, before the rules strangle community completely.
Dear Councillor Giambrone, I am so sad to hear that my birthday party at Dufferin Grove Park has been doused. I booked the fire pit for Feb.4th and had started inviting a long list of friends and family to come out for a skating/tobogganing/campfire party. It was set to be my best birthday in years. When I was in the rink house with my kids today to warm up and snack on mini pizzas, I was told that my booking has been cancelled, and all others like it, because someone at a different park made a fire in an unusual location!
But I would have made mine in the proper pit- a pit where for 13 years community members have enjoyed fires with nary a single incident of injury or damage to park property! Does this seem the least bit reasonable to you? Can you help? I wonder if you can talk to the fire guy responsible and sooth his totally unfounded fears of injury, damage and liability. Tell him that the community at Duff Grove are responsible, fun-loving citizens who care about the trees as much as he does. Tell him that gathering around a fire is an ancient and beautiful rite- one repeated millions of times a day the world over without incident. Tell him to un-cancel my birthday!
Hello Rebecca, thanks for copying me on your e-mail to Councillor Giambrone.
I think there was a misunderstanding, though. The situation is a little more complicated than that "someone at a different park made a fire in an unusual location," as you wrote in your e-mail. As far as I know, Fire Captain John Lyons visited Wallace Rink to discuss the application of campfire rules in general, not because (as I also heard yesterday through the rumour mill) we "set a tree on fire in the park." No such thing ever happened.
Here's the background (which will appear in the February park newsletter next week).
The new Parks supervisor, Peter Leiss, had expressed his concern about campfires in general, at any location in the area where he works, Dufferin Grove included. The supervisor first made his views on this issue known a few days before a neighbourhood "take back the park" cooking fire near Bloor and Lansdowne in December. So that event almost got canceled, but it was restored at the last minute with the help of Councillor Giambrone. The organizers had prepared beautifully and the gathering was a terrific success. The two recent special events at Campbell and Wallace rinks also included a cooking fire, and again Mr.Leiss was apparently not pleased.
To build on the success of the Wallace Rink event, and attract more families back to the rink, rink staff undertook to have a Sunday afternoon cooking fire at that rink for the next six weeks. But suddenly this week a new rule came down: cooking fires are to be located at least 100 feet from any building, even if the building is concrete and the ground between the cooking fire and the building is frozen and snow-covered. That rule would make the Wallace Rink Sunday hot dog roasts impossible, and so that's why the councillor's office had invited Fire Captain Lyons to meet at the site.
Captain Lyons saw ashes near a tree and decided on that basis -- not on any other knowledge of that particular fire or any of the many other fires supervised by Dufferin staff -- that the people who supervise the campfires at Dufferin are, as he said, "imbeciles" for starting a fire that close to a tree. He said he would not be giving permission for any park fires. But even if he had only applied the new 100-meter rule, we would have had to cancel most cooking fires anyway.
As your letter said, most of the people who have had a campfire or cooking fire at Dufferin Grove are very responsible and experienced with campfires. A few are not, but the park's recreation staff train and supervise those until they're satisfied that they "get it." Because of the supervision by these staff, the campfires have become the wonderful, neighbourly events that you had hoped for on Feb.4.
Some mildly good news for you: There is no legal requirement for a cooking fire permit from the Fire Department:
So you are allowed to have a cooking fire, where your family and friends can sit around and toast marshmallows or make hot chocolate, as long as the fire is as small as the cooking fires we have at Dufferin Grove. But you'll have to have it in your own backyard or the backyard of one of your friends. Parks are owned by the corporation of the City of Toronto, and as the agents of the property-owner, the staff in charge of parks can give permission or not, as they choose. At this point, Peter Leiss chooses not to.
It appears that the City currently has no explicit policy on park fires. That may be why they just stopped giving any cooking fire or campfire permits in parks, in the last couple of years. Since the City's recreation staff and some of the long-time friends of the park are really the most experienced people at conducting a successful fire in parks, the researchers in our group are consulting them to create a list of proposed fire safety considerations. We've also done a fairly broad search through the various bits of legislation and regulations to see what the rules are elsewhere. We'll deliver this material to the City on Tuesday, to get a discussion going. But because of the Parks supervisor's position, it's doubtful that we'll have the permission in place by Feb.4. Would you like us to keep you updated?
The process will certainly be helped by the input of any of your friends who care about this issue. So if you pass along this e-mail to your friends, they can e-mail the Councillor also, if they wish, or their own Councillor if they live in an adjacent ward. An odd birthday present for your friends to give you, but a nice one!
Protecting trees: As for the friends of the park caring about trees, as you point out in your letter -- that's for sure! And the recreation staff care about them too. In the case of the pine tree at Wallace Rink, there had been a freak ice-rain the night before, and the staff chose the only location that was not dangerously slippery for the skaters coming to roast their hot dogs. People's safety always comes first, but the tree also had ice on it and so it sustained no damage at all. The senior parks staff who were running the fire knew, as do most people, how difficult it is for "green" (live) wood to burn, especially on a cold winter day. But in case of any unexpected occurrence, the recreation staff always have two big buckets of water and a shovel right by the fire, and they could have put out the cooking fire in less than one minute if the branch had got warm.
As you know, none of the Dufferin Grove cooking fire sites are under trees and the Wallace site shouldn't be either. In the week that followed, I and various staff spent time chipping out the ice so that the fire site for this week could be moved back into the open. But it still had to be near the mats and picnic tables so that skaters could get there. However, Fire Captain Lyons said he would not approve that site, and if we wanted to have a cooking fire we could "put it in the middle of the rink."
Hopefully we can have some fruitful negotiations about the fires next week, with the help of Councilor Giambrone -- ones that will not include insult or sarcasm. When the cooking fires are reinstated, the spirit of the fire safety rules will continue to be carefully observed, even if occasionally the staff have to make a judgment call about unique circumstances, as was the case on January 21.
In the meantime, when I write about this issue in the February newsletter, may I have your permission to quote from your letter, about all the fun you don't want to miss?
“Open Air Burning shall not be permitted unless approved, or unless such burning consists of a small, confined fire, supervised at all times, and used to cook food on a grill or a barbeque”.
8.5 No person shall start a fire outdoors outside of a restricted fire zone during the fire season for cooking or warmth unless all of the following conditions are met:
1. The site of the fire is bare rock or other non-combustible material.
2. The fire is at least one metre from any flammable material.
3. The space above the one metre area around the fire is at least three metres from vegetation.
4. The fire does not exceed one metre in height and one metre in diameter. O. Reg. 230/00, s. 4.
Open air burning shall not be permitted unless approved, or unless such burning consists of a small, confined fire, supervised at all times, and used to cook food on a grill or a barbecue.
Can I have a fire to cook food?
Cooking fires are allowed without permit provided they meet the following:
I will be happy to meet to establish areas suitable for Fire pits. I have a meeting Thursday in the late morning to early afternoon other than that I am available.
I am not certain that every park needs to have a Fire Pit. The current parks used are Dufferin Grove, Wallace Emerson, MacGregor and Campbell Avenue. I ensure that the City policies and procedures are available for these meetings.
1. Susan Tibaldi Park needs a cooking fire area too. Fire pits are not necessary for every place. Cooking Fire permission is. These fires are to make food in a traditional way. (No gas barbecues.) The point of that is community development.
2. This is a program issue and needs to be led by recreation, including those staff who have run this program over the past years. I need to be there, because this is also an important issue for the CELOS Parks Committee report.
Interesting about the Fire Code. I've asked the Fire Department and Parks staff to clarify what the implications of this regulation are.
I agree re: #2, our office will be consistently asking Fire and Parks staff to consult with the Rec staff on their programming needs before making any decisions on possible fire pit locations.
As per the below email, Rebecca made a booking with the Dufferin Grove Rec staff to use the fire pit on Feb. 4th for her birthday. She is now feeling in limbo while City staff sort out what the proper procedure for fires in City parks will be.
Is there anything she could do, e.g. get a permit of some sort, that would allow her to go ahead with her birthday party at the park as planned?
As I have stated earlier I am happy to meet to resolve this issue. I have not heard of meeting being set. At this point I am available to meet anytime except for Thursday morning.
To be clear I am not opposed to Camp fires in Parks. I am however bound by City policies and bylaws. The City Bylaw requires the following:
§ 608-10. Campfires and barbecues.
While in a park, no person shall:
A. Light, build or stoke an open fire or bonfire unless authorized by permit;
B. Use any portable barbeques unless authorized by permit or where posted to allow the use;
C. Use fuel other than charcoal or briquettes in permanently fixed barbeques; or
D. Leave a barbecue or campfire without extinguishing the fire and ensuring that the embers are cold.
The set fine for this is:
Light/Build/Stoke) (open fire/ bonfire) in park without permit §608-10A $300.00
In order to obtain a permit one has to apply to the permitting section and the fire department needs to approve. The Recreation section has not done either of these in this case.
The Fire department requires the following to approve an open fire:
Open air burning is not permitted within the City of Toronto except with approval by the Toronto Fire Services Fire Prevention Division.
Open air burning shall not be permitted unless approved, or unless such burning consists of a small, confined fire, supervised at all times, and used to cook food on a grill or a barbecue.
The authority to approve open air burning is provided by the Fire Chief to Chief Officers of the Fire Prevention Division.
Open air burning shall meet a number of conditions. These fires shall be all of the following:
(a) Small. (b) Confined. (c) Supervised at all times. (d) Food cooking on a grill or other TFS "approved" fires. (e) Outdoor fireplaces are not approved.
Any open fire failing to meet all of the listed conditions shall be ordered extinguished by the Incident Commander. Failure to comply with open air burning regulations is an offense for which a person can be charged under the Fire Code.
Written requests for open air burning authorization should be sent to the attention of the applicable Fire Prevention Division District Chief.
In order to approve Rebecca's birthday event all that is required is for Recreation to make the proper applications.
This process was approved by Council. I cannot disregard this process.
As per the below email from Peter Leiss, your best shot at getting a green light for a camp fire on time for your birthday party is to try to get a permit from the Fire Prevention office. They can be reached at:
South Command 77 Elizabeth Street Toronto M5G 1P4 Tel: 416-338-9352 Fax: 416-338-9349
I'm sure the Rec staff at the park will also be willing to help you get this organized on time. Other City staff are also working on resolving the issue of permits for fires in Ward 18 parks in general, but I imagine that the more people we have trying to get this sorted out, the faster it will get resolved.
I agree with you Chris, it looks like Rebecca needs to apply somewhere. As it stands, in order not to get charged under the fire code, Rebecca needs to either plan a small confined cooking fire (our usual type of Dufferin Grove fire) or ask the Fire Prevention Office for approval to make a campfire.
The Fire Prevention office will tell Rebecca the same thing they told the Recreation supervisors -- they have no problem with a campfire if the Parks supervisor approves it. But it appears that the Parks supervisor says the Permits section has to approve any open fire, including the exempt category of confined cooking fire.
When City Recreation supervisors contacted Permits to get a fire permit for Moss Park and another for Susan Tibaldi Park, they were told that Permits no longer gives any fire permits.
So that leaves Rebecca with a $300 fine if she tries to have her cooking fire/campfire, as Peter has pointed out to her.
Rebecca, maybe you want to just go ahead and try the route that Peter Leiss is suggesting anyway? You could be lucky. Certainly, as Chris says, if you can get the paperwork done, the Dufferin Rink staff will do all the things they know how to do so well after 13 years' experience with this recreation program, in terms of supporting your gathering.
Please be advised that Rebecca(or her parents) can apply for a permit for the Parks approved FIRE ring at Dufferin Grove Park as this is in the permitting system. This Fire ring is available for permits through the permit office. Chislett, Heather, her information is below. Office Information Support Assistant A Citizen Focused Services A Office Address Metro Hall main floor
Tino said that the "fire ring" is the fire circle in the centre of the park, also used for programming. This location is actually an "administrative booking," which means that there are no central bookings without Tino's clearance. The other existing "fire rings" in the City are: Derrydowns Park, Dovercourt Park, Downsview Dells Park, Dufferin Grove Park, ET Seton Park, Earl Bales Park, G Ross Lord Park, Humber Bay Park East, L'Amoreaux Sports Centre, Morningside Park, Northwood Park, Riverdale Farm, Tam O'Shanter, Todmorden Mills Heritage Museum, Toronto Islands - 25 firepits, Wilket Creek Park, Withrow Park.
As promised for today, the Dufferin Grove proposed cooking fire policy. It's based on the practice we've had here for many years combined with the various policies and regulations we found in our research.
I'd like to suggest that Recreation get City permission to do the staff-run cooking fire program, which ought to be in CLASS, not under permits. We will commit to using this protocol. It seems to me that -- given the staff's long successful history of running that program -- this ought to be reinstated right away. Then the staff could work with Rebecca to set her up with pots, grill etc., for her cooking fire on Feb.4.
Note that there have been many such cooking fires by the rink, with someone celebrating birthday, tenure, retirement, etc. But these are still public cooking fires and other skaters can always join them -- all the rink fires have been run on this rule, since they're a rec program.
The campfire/fire pit location questions are more difficult, since they also involve the Fire department and other parks. I would suggest that we take a few weeks for recreation workers to think this through, do some sketches and photos, etc. and confer with Parks to find out their specific location concerns and the reasons behind them.
I'm confused about the relation of recreation programming and Permits. The cooking fire program has been developed over many years at Dufferin Grove Park, and it has recently worked out very well at Trinity, Wallace, MacGregor, Campbell, and Susan Tibaldi Parkette. This is an inexpensive but powerful community development tool.
Is is true that your recreation staff now need to get approval from Permits to do this program?
This is a major change from practice up to now. If there is a new protocol being developed, shouldn't Recreation be taking the lead? And shouldn't there be direct input from park users who enjoy this program?
I will be away from the office until February 2nd.
If you require immediate assistance, please contact: Malcolm Bromley at 416-395-6027.
Thanks Jutta. I just spoke to Parks Director Paul Ronan and assures me that a prompt response and resolution is forthcoming.
Thanks Malcolm. I hope that any resolution will include input from rec staff who have been doing these cooking fires for so many years.
I just got off the phone from explaining to Councillor Adam Vaughan why the rink opening party for Harry Gairey Rink had to be cancelled for this weekend. The cooking fire was going to be a central element of that party, with Dufferin Rink staff collaborating with the rec staff at Harry Gairey. Cooking fires are a wonderful traditional element that builds community. The rec staff are great at doing them.
So maybe this rec program can be allowed back in. (Should say "recreation" one more time or am I making my drift kind of obvious?)
Thanks Jutta. My understanding is that the fire permit part is being dealt with by Parks. Recreation staff can continue to be counted on for any programming issues/ needs. This will be co-ordinated by the local staff including the Supervisor and Manager as appropriate. I will ask Kelvin to help in this regard. Let me know if this is ok.
I'm afraid I don't understand your response to my question. A 13-year, highly successful recreation-run program has been suspended. This is not because of any injury or damage but because the local Parks supervisor became concerned about the risk of losing his house, apparently under Occupational Health and Safety penalties (all about employees). This is the third time in eight months that local Parks management have given the imagined risk of losing their houses as a legitimate reason to subvert the best efforts of recreation staff and park users.
It's precisely because recreation-led community development is being derailed by local Parks management that I am having to appeal to our City councillor, and soon the relevant council committees, for protection.
So are you telling me here that your director/general manager are leaving the matter in the same hands that created this problem?
I think this is not a viable approach.
The issue here is community development. Parks is not competent in the area of community development -- their focus is maintenance. Ditto with Permits -- their focus is revenue. So the question is: is anybody home at Recreation management who will now address this problem created by Parks? Brenda, Don and Malcom:
I'd also appreciate some clarity on this ASAP. My own staff have been spending a lot of time trying to get this sorted out and there seems to be a lot of confusion among Parks & Rec staff as to what the proper procedure is.
I have attended some of these camp fires in the past and can personally attest to their enormous success and their value as a community building tool. I do not think it is fair to the community to have such a successful program be in limbo and I want this sorted out fast!!!
I checked with some of our researchers last night, about the Fire Code's exemption for "confined cooking fires." They were surprised to hear that the Toronto Fire staff told you that they don't recognize this as an exemption in the Act. We need that in writing. Could you let me know the address of the Fire staff who gave you that information, so we can write to him?
The cooking fire issue is a daily problem for us -- yesterday the rec staff had to disappoint a group of 25 kids from Toronto Community Housing who came from across town, all set with their packages of hot dogs and their hot chocolate mix -- but no go. So sad.
As you know, Parks has cancelled permission for City recreation staff to make a cooking fire at Harry Gairey Rink to celebrate the re-opening of your rebuilt rink. Dave Hains was told he had support from his Parks supervisor to do this, but then it was withdrawn.
Background: Dufferin Rink staff has recently begun to "take the show on the road" in a few places, collaborating with Rec staff at other rinks to see if what they developed at Dufferin can be adapted to other neighbourhoods. After two wonderful events at Ward 18 rinks, Wallace Rink and Campbell Rink, I approached Dave to see if his rink staff would like to collaborate on making a community rink celebration at Harry Gairey. Dave was enthusiastic, Dufferin Rink staff said they were willing, and your office said you could attend (and cut the ribbon). Staff from both rinks had a planning meeting: for DJ music, good food from your park's little bake-oven, a cooking fire (including a spit-roasted goose, in the Fort York manner), and the skate rental van with the Dufferin Rink skates. The plan also involved house to house flyers and the on-site creation of an Alexandra Park wiki website.
When we spoke last night, you were surprised to hear that the subverting of the cooking fire would cause the cancellation of the whole event. The thing is, a cooking fire provides the "heart" for such a neighbourhood event. We've found at Dufferin that the fire's beauty draws people together, and the fire makes food taste different than any other.
A Fire captain told me and Dufferin staff last week that he was withdrawing permission for the cooking fires because the manner of doing the post-ice-storm cooking fire showed we are "imbeciles." The Parks supervisor who was present made no objection.
The Dufferin staff put a lot of extra effort into these collaborations. So do I. So would the Harry Gairey Rink staff. To make these efforts under the cloud of City management staff treating the Dufferin Rink approach as reckless or stupid is no fun at all. The cooking fire is the centre, combined with the warmth of the recreation staff as they bring people together. The actions of the Parks management show they don't understand how this works at all.
This does not mean, of course, that Dave's staff can't organize an opening celebration without Dufferin Rink staff. But I think both staff and skaters would have way more fun if the original plans were revived with the full blessing of the City.
I've attached the Dufferin Rink staff's proposed cooking fire protocol. And if you want to see one of the web sites (created at and after the Wallace reopening celebration), here's the link: http://wallaceemerson.ca/wiki/wiki.php?n=PictureLibrary2007.GrandReopening-02
To all involved:
A meeting is scheduled for tomorrow at Coronation Park offices to discuss this matter fully. The intent of this meeting will be to establish protocols which will offer flexibility to Recreation/Community Programming ,while at the same time establishing clear and consistent guidelines.
I am confident that the staff involved in this meeting will be able to come up with a set of criteria that will address the issue of fires beyond the designated firepit areas.
A follow-up to this meeting will be provided to you and I commit that this issue will be resolved in a timely manner.
I assume your e-mail means that you intend to establish a protocol without the direct participation of the rec staff who have developed these cooking fires. And without community input (in this case, mine).
The absence of real, respectful collaboration about this issue hasn't worked at all well so far.
May I suggest an alternative? That the meeting takes place at Dufferin Rink instead of Coronation Park, to get better grounding and involve all the players. I've cc'd them here.
You would also get better coffee (Fair Trade Organic) and muffins. Plus fresh bread from the outdoor ovens, since Thursday is farmers' market day and the outdoor bake ovens are still allowed to be fired up.
I just found out yesterday that the Dufferin Grove Park fire circle is listed as a City Fire Ring which can be permitted when not in use for programming. I see that there are 16 other locations as well. Could you let me know: 1. what you charge for such permits 2. what kind of staff support there is for such permits 3. what the fire safety rules are that you attach to such permits 4. Are all of these locations active
Chris, the Toronto Fire Services has prohibited all open fires in the city unless approved, (except if the fire is contained in a barbecue, supervised and used for cooking). Without this prohibition there would be small campfires throughout the city in people's backyards which in turn leads to nuisance and real alarms for the Fire Services and complaints due to smoke throughout the neighbourhood. It is not our intention to ban open fires in parks, but we do want to ensure that they are done safely and that we have record of when and where they are. I agree with Ms Mason that Parks, Forestry and Recreation need to approve the time and place of the activity, the selected location would then be Approved or be pre-approved by the Toronto Fire Services. This process has been in place in other areas of the City but a formal agreement/policy has not been adopted. Division Chief Mike Gerrard has asked me to use this opportunity to create an interdepartmental policy that will be used throughout the City.
The 100 feet rule, which is unprecedented anywhere else, will make our cooking fires impossible.
It is also huge overkill on fire safety grounds. I would suggest that we have a large public meeting at which the fire people to demonstrate how a concrete-block building 90 feet away (the rink house) can be ignited by our cooking fire (i.e they would actually do a fire test, we have the huge zamboni hoses to put it out, or they could have their truck standing by). Then they can show us how they can ignite the rink house with our cooking fire from 20 feet, then from ten, and finally from two feet away. If they can't make any of that happen, we'll need to take up their policy as being indefensible, especially since explosive cooking devices (gas barbecues), which are permitted everywhere, follow no such 100 feet rule. Logs in campfires can't explode.
These are the issues: 1.The way the cooking fires have nourished community, here and through the ages. We can let the campfire advocates speak for themselves as this stuff gets out. The distance-from-structures rule subverts this success. 2. The Ontario Fire Code is being reinterpreted by limiting "confined fire" to "barbecue." 3. The risk of smoky backyard campfires is a red herring -- lots of people have backyard gas barbecues and they smoke a lot, and a semi-enclosed wood fire in a fixed outdoor fireplace-- permitted -- makes the same amount of smoke. 4. Our 13-year practice is not being acknowledged despite our excellent safety record.
So I think if Fire staff want to make their case, they should do the show-and-tell above and we'll invite everyone to watch. Could you ask them to set up a time for this demonstration? I would appreciate getting the date as soon as possible so that we can begin to publicize this event.
The intent of the meeting is to get our own staff together to discuss this issue and get a better overall picture.. A workable resolve that meets the needs of the community and is conducted in a safe managed manner is what I believe to be our common goal..
As you know, part of the problem here is that there really is no policy in place specifically for park camp fire programs. The rules you are talking about are general, city wide, one-size-fits-all sorts of rules designed for circumstances where individual citizens are making fires on public or private property, rather than for City programmed fires run by City staff in City parks.
Both the senior Fire Dept staff and the senior Parks and Rec management are all now working on developing a new policy that hopefully will make space for the camp fire program while still addressing staff's safety concerns.
I'd like to wait to hear what comes out of the meetings they are having about this today before we decide on next steps.
I am happy to report to you that as a result of our discussions today we will be permitting you have a cooking fire for your birthday event this weekend. This permission is for your event and your event alone. I hope this will allow you to have a happy birthday.
You will have Allan Crawford on site to supervise the cooking fire.
This cooking fire will have to similar to the cooking fires that have occurred preciously.
The fire have to be a minimum of 10 feet or 3 metres from any buildings, structures shrubs or trees and tree roots in the Park. The fire will have to be small and for cooking only. The fire will be to contained in a circle of approximately 24 inches of non combustible materials surrounding it (ie stones) and should not be more than 24 inches high. You will have to have a pail of sand and two pails of water immediately available to douse the fire. You will have to ensure that the fire is completely extinguished at the completion of your event. You will responsible for ensuring the all of the materials are removed after you event is completed.
There will be no fee for this cooking fire.
If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact me directly.
At our meeting today a number of items were resolved.
1 The existing fire pit in the center of Dufferin Grove park will permitted through the permitting department only. The Fire department is satisfied with this location.
2 We will be holding another meeting next week to discuss the cooking Fire issue.
3 We will be forming a Policy for Cooking fires going forward.
4 We have approved on a one time basis and one time only the Cooking fire for Rebecca's birthday this weekend at no charge.
If you have questions or concerns please feel free to contact me directly.
As you are already aware, the "resolved" items #1 to 3 are not acceptable to me. I will now undertake to contact as many other cooking fire users as possible and see how they feel. Although you have not asked any of us for guidance, I'm afraid you may need to collaborate with us anyway.
Mayssan, please ensure we have a Rec staff on site to set up this fire for Rebecca and supervise. Allan will be present to assist or answer any questions that may arise.
Recreation staff normally go through the fire training procedure with fire permit holders. We provide 2 buckets of water in the winter and a shovel to put out the fire. So we will carry this out - and *Allan in charge of the fire as per Peter Leiss's request.*
We also facilitate a donation process where by the community provides kindling and the use of community bought trivet and grill/pot and shovel for cooking fire use. The suggested donation is $10.00. We can offer this service. Also - in the winter we do not normally provide sand - mainly because it has proved to be unnecessary in the winter, the second reason being that the sandpit is currently under a pile of snow. *Peter - could you provide us with sand as per your request. *
I guess the fire dept. has checked the proximity of the center fire pit to the tree and its roots - so with your approval we can carry this out. Please let me know if this has not been checked.
hello Ms.Chislett, I have not heard back from you yet and I need this information for a report I'm writing -- I'm sure you are very busy, but would you be able to take a few minutes to answer the questions I sent you about other fire rinks? Thank you.
Thanks -- much appreciated.
Sandy had just returned from New York City where she and some colleagues spent three days studying NYC models of communty engagement and Park rangers. Sandy said that she loves campfires and feels she can get this problem worked out. She also said that she feels more like rules need to be followed than when she was younger.
1. To "get a better picture," and now to work out general cooking fire/campfire policies for the city, it's not good to leave out the most direct players here -- as you have done so far, and now another closed-door meeting is planned for next week....? I'm hoping that you and Sandy can work out a more promising approach 2. Please let me know if there is any other staff person/group working on city parks fire policy, and if so, who?
To avoid confusion Sandy will continue to be the Parks main contact.
1. Sandy and is spoke this morning and she said having stones around a winter fire is dangerous, they might explode -- Rebecca said that too 2. Two staff in a truck came over specially with a bucket of sand today, but on a cold winter day sand won't work because it will get solid in the bucket -- we use snow in the winter, it's usually available 3. your staff will have to monitor that the fire is only used for cooking and not for warmth, it's too far away from the rink for rink staff to do that -- this is your project
Further to our meeting this morning, I am still gathering and reviewing the activities from while I was away in New York, it would be helpful if you outline why these 3 are unacceptable to you and how you would like to see them changed. That way everyone has the benefit of your input for the work done to date.
I have not been able to round up the group that had the first meeting but I will try and hook up with them on Monday to see if it is practical to meet at Dufferin or if perhaps one of the rec staff who work on the cooking fires might join Tino and the group.
I will let you know as soon as I hear back from those that were involved at the first meeting. At the very least you and the Dufferin crew will have an opportunity to review and comment on the draft work being done.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts concerns ideas and suggestions this morning. It is a difficult scenario but one I feel we can all grow from.
Sandy, it sounds as though you may not hold the campfire meeting at Dufferin after all, nor involve me as you had suggested when we were having coffee together.
I heard another example of Peter's high-handedness in a different park tonight and if I heard right he may now be angering people in Pantalone's area too. I feel that Peter is damaging our park and therefore the community that's built up around it. I suspect that others in Ward 18, and around Trinity, feel the same -- we'll see next week.
I said that only three of the four points Peter wrote were unacceptable, but now it appears that the fourth was just as bad. I have put the objections that you requested in red:
>From Peter: "1. The existing fire pit in the center of Dufferin Grove park will permitted through the permitting department only." this is a program area and it helps keep the park safe after dark -- moving it to central permitting will interfere very seriously with that goal and damage our park
From Peter: "2 We will be holding another meeting next week to discuss the cooking Fire issue." meeting without proper community and on-site staff representation wastes staff time because it omits the main players
From Peter: "3 We will be forming a Policy for Cooking fires going forward." forming a campfire policy that omits the people who developed and run this program is unacceptable
From Peter: "4 We have approved on a one time basis and one time only the Cooking fire for Rebecca's birthday this weekend at no charge." I only found out today that Peter gave Rebecca the rink fire location. Mayssan informs me that Rebecca had originally been given middle-of-the-park fire circle because another long-time cooking-fire group had already asked to use the rink site. The group that got it first was cancelled (on Peter's order) and now he gave it to Rebecca instead. That's the kind of mess he's created.
Hello Tino and Jutta, Staff at Dufferin received the email where Peter mentions that only the center pit is permitted. However, I've just been told that this morning that Peter Leiss was at a site meeting at Dufferin with Allan Crawford (and the fire dept?) without me. It appears they have given approval for the rink fire pit. This seems to contradict what we were told by Peter yesterday. Please advise?!?
The birthday party cooking fire went ahead without any more trouble than the other 1000+ cooking fires in the park since 1993. Except that it was really, really cold and the staff invited the party inside the rink house to have their birthday cake. Rink staff Corey dumped extra water on the coals of the fire instead of letting it burn itself out with people sitting companionably around the fire, as he would have done before all this drama. The ashes mixed with water turned into a black puddle on the ground and began to freeze instantly.
None of the officials were there, not Peter Leiss, not the Fire safety chief. One police officer did come, on an enormous police horse, but that was only Rebecca's brother, having ridden up all the way from the stables near Ft. York to say hi to his sister on her birthday.
I'd be most appreciative if you could answer Jutta's question as soon as possible, copying me, if you have not done so already.
As per Mark Lawson, Manager of Customer Services the reply should come from one of the Supervisors Pam Jackson or Norm LeBrum. I have sent them both Jutta's email.
Can you please expedite a response to Jutta Mason re: her questions below, copying me so I can brief Councillor Giambrone.
Pamela Jackson from my staff will provide you with the information to the attached questions.
I provide the response to your questions below. If I can be of further assistance, do not hesitate to contact me directly. Thank you.
> 1. what you charge for such permits $53.50 > 2. what kind of staff support there is for such permits Parks Supervisors are advised, Parks Patrol Staff and Bi-Law Enforcement Officers > 3. what the fire safety rules are that you attach to such permits Fire Safety is outlined by Toronto Fire. Please contact them directly. > 4. Are all of these locations active Not all locations are active. The following Parks have removed the Fire pits: Serena Gundy; ET Seton. > Humber Bay, Northwood and High Park are no longer active.
Thank you Ms.Jackson.
As you may know, Parks supervisor Peter Leiss is working on developing a City campfire policy at the moment. Hence my interest in what is done elsewhere. So I'm hoping you can confirm or clarify several things in your responses:
1. Does a Parks supervisor or someone on his staff speak to each permit prior to the campfire?
2. What is the nature of fire supervision given by the by-law officer or Park Patrol staff?
3. What I meant about fire safety information is -- who is responsible for explaining the fire rules to the campfire permits? Do you mean that Fire Services contacts each fire permit and explains the rules?
4. Regarding the list of parks for which a campfire permit is centrally available -- it seems to be shrinking. Is this an intentional part of city policy? Is the city planning to eliminate campfires from parks eventually?
These are all issues of policy and work direction within the Parks Branch. Perhaps Peter Leis can respond to your questions.
You're getting this e-mail because you've had a campfire at Dufferin Grove Park at some time in the last few years.
On January 26, the Parks supervisor cancelled all existing campfire permits in the park. Thirteen years of campfires at the park with no injury, and suddenly they were stopped! Now the program needs some help, to get it back (in recognizable shape). Some of you on this list already know about the problem, so the attachment also gives an update.
Background: Parks supervisor Peter Leiss gave the order to stop the campfires on the grounds of "inadequate protocol."
You may know that the campfire permits used to be under my name, because I began them. But for many years now, the Recreation staff have run the campfires as a program. The idea remains the same as at the beginning --
1. campfires put more life into the park in the evenings (increasing park safety) 2. campfires draw families, friends, neighbours together 3. food tastes more delicious 4. campfires draw out stories -- people often get more sociable, and the park therefore gets nicer
Now: Parks management has not asked for, or permitted, any public input in developing their new fire protocol up until now. (The Fire Captain said that the fires appeared to be run by "imbeciles.") Dufferin Rink's recreation staff have been working very hard to influence the proposed new protocol, which has changed almost daily. Then, this past Friday, the Parks supervisor suddenly gave his temporary permission to resume the campfires, just for the weekend. Everything is mixed up, and it's hard to know where it's going.
This is what's needed:
1. letters to the councillor (who strongly supports the campfires, but is helped by a show of support) and the mayor: Councillor_Giambrone@toronto.ca and Mayor_Miller@toronto.ca
2. If your day has any flexibility in it, the other thing needed is some hours of your presence at a deputation at City Hall on Tuesday February 20. That's when the Parks Committee meets. If our issue gets held over until after lunch, there will also be a "zamboni-cafe-picnic" and a skating time at City Hall rink. This will be a great civics lesson for kids (with a storyteller too). And a sociable time for grownups. (People who wish to be kept informed by cellphone can limit their attendance to the right moment, if they can get down there quickly.)
The deputation is meant to persuade the Parks Committee to instruct Parks management to stop working against Dufferin Grove friends and work with us instead. That's because this campfire prohibition is only the most recent problem in a series.
I asked Mayssan about Susan Tibaldi Park campfire permission. She said that you are concerned about possible effects of a cooking fire on the TTC line underneath. I offered to check for her, and so I asked the chair of the TTC.
Councillor Giambrone says he feels confident that a cooking fire in Susan Tibaldi Park will not interfere with the TTC. I hope this suffices. Please let the community know when the neighbours of Susan Tibaldi Park will be able to resume their excellent "take back the park" campfire program, working together with Dufferin Grove staff.
I asked Mayssan what's happening with the Campbell Rink cooking fires with youth on Fridays. She said they are still on hold. Please open your planning for that rink to community people as well, since a few of us have been part of this program all along. Mayssan said that the ideal program location that we've used in the past two years, i.e. two meters west of the header trench, is seen as a problem because of a potential ammonia explosion. I have checked with the TSSA and they sent the following information:
Ammonia gas has an explosive range of 16 to 25 per cent by volume in air. It is classified as non-flammable under WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System) and the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations.
Beyond that, Mayssan says it's your impression that Campbell Rink is still direct ammonia and therefore there would be ammonia in the header trench. Campbell Rink was rebuilt for $700,000 in 1997 or 1998 and I am under the impression it's brine or glycol, not direct ammonia. That would mean there is NO ammonia in the header trench pipes. Could you check that please, and let us all know? The next campfire date is for the Campbell youth tournament on Feb.25, and I'm worried this issue will not be clarified in time.
Ammonia is generally not considered a serious fire or explosion hazard because ammonia-air mixtures are difficult to ignite and a relatively high concentration of the gas is required. However, a large and intense energy source may cause ignition and/or an explosion in a confined space.
The human detection of ammonia occurs at concentrations far below those that would create irreversible health damage or create a significant fire/explosion hazard (see windex example). Hence, no matter how mesmerizing a cooking fire may be, people would be alerted to the ammonia and could douse the fire and seek the refuge of distance from the ammonia source.
The Campbell Rink is a glycol system.
I assume that Dominic copied you on this. I could have told you at the time. It's good to make use of the resources you have, to avoid wasting time.
I'm hoping you can help me. Because of the Feb.20 agenda postponement, I have to do an update mailing re cooking fires to my list today, and I am still out of the loop. These are the questions I need answered:
1. When will I be invited back into this discussion? (Now would be good.)
2. Can I have a copy of the current protocol re permits?
3. Can I have a copy of the current protocol re fire safety?
4. is it true that our 13-year-old campfire program is being called a "pilot project"? If so, whose pilot? I don't see Parks monitoring it (i.e being present for fires) -- so who is monitoring it, where are the reports going?
5. What is the status of the ammonia concern re Campbell?
6. What is the status of the TTC concern re Susan Tibaldi?
7. When can the Wallace Family Sundays cooking fire program resume?
I hope you can get answers to each of these questions today -- sorry for the urgency, but I've been waiting a long time, and as you know, I am unable to get the answers directly.
Assuming the meeting tomorrow morning goes according to plan, we will then have a framework ready that will allow the Rec staff to resume Dufferin Grove cooking fire programming immediately via the new protocol; and also we will be able to share them with you and other interested members of the public for comment and feedback, including hard copies of the new rules.
Parks staff have indeed started using the term "pilot-project." It would be more accurate to say that it is a pilot-project to test these new rules. I agree that more clarification is needed on what criteria will be used to evaluate the pilot, who will be doing the evaluating, and what other feedback mechanisms will be in place, such as public consultation. I will ask these questions at the meeting tomorrow morning.
We will try to get the locations at the other parks approved at the meeting tomorrow morning as well. If there are outstanding safety concerns that can't be resolved at the meeting, then it will take a few more days to sort out. My own personal goal is to have all of this sorted out and the resumption of Rec programmed cooking and warming fires, at all requested Ward 18 park locations, by next Friday at the absolute latest. The sooner the better, and we'll have more news after the meeting tomorrow.