MONTREAL -- Throwing a log on an open fire will soon become a thing of the past in the city of Montreal if councillors have their way.
Earlier this year, in a decision that did not come under much scrutiny, Montreal's Executive Committee ordered the elimination of all wood-burning fireplaces by Dec. 31, 2020.
Homeowners with wood-burning stoves or fireplaces will have to permanently render them inoperable, have them removed, or have them replaced with a fireplace that burns gas or a stove that burns EPA-approved pellets.
City council ratified the decision on June 18 by a vote of 45 to 1, however it appears the decision is not yet final; public consultations will take place later this year, and a final vote is scheduled to happen after municipal elections in November.
Josée Duplessis, the Committee member responsible for parks and the environment, said this is a move to make sure the air quality in Montreal improves.
“We're going to give the opportunity to citizens to come and talk about what they think about this ruling, and then we're going to adopt at the municipal council the ways to apply this regulation,” he said.
“This regulation will be applied in 2020.”
A total of 41 of the 49 'bad-air days’ that the city of Montreal had in 2012 all happened during the winter, and the city of Montreal blames soot generated by stoves and fireplaces.
Norman King, of Montreal's public health department, estimates that air pollution kills hundreds of people in Montreal each year.
"Studies have shown, when we extrapolate to the Montreal reality that close to 1,000 people per year die prematurely due to their chronic exposure to fine particulate air pollution," said King
The city of Montreal has been pushing homeowners to eliminate wood-burning appliances for several years, starting in 2009 when city council adopted a bylaw banning the installation of wood-burning stoves or fireplaces in any newly-constructed home.
Businesses that sell stoves criticized that bylaw, saying the city should promote high-efficiency stoves instead of pushing for outright bans.
"You know, you have some people in Montreal that really like wood stoves," said Normand Hamel.
The owner of Poeles et Foyers Rosemont says replacing an old-fashioned fireplace can cost up to $5,000.
"To have this kind of drastic decision in Montreal is an expense for the consumers of Montreal," he said.
To that end the provincial government created the 'Feu-Vert' program in 2011 to convince homeowners to replace wood-burning stoves for those using propane, natural gas, wood pellets or electricity.
'Feu-Vert' offers people up to $900 for installing a new stove, but the program comes to an end on Dec. 31, 2013.
About 85,000 homes within city limits have fireplaces or wood-burning stoves.