Logs crackling in a fireplace conjure images of romance and comfort, but city officials blame them for dozens of smog advisories being issued last winter.

This past spring, Montreal adopted a bylaw banning the installation of new wood-burning stoves.

"Ultimately, we want people to be safe," said Montreal Executive Committee member Alan DeSousa. "It's good for people's health, and it's also good for the environment."

However retailers who sell fireplaces and stoves are not happy with the city's decision.

"We had to react very fast and to change totally our product in Montreal," said Normand Hamel. "If [a customer] lives in Montreal, I have to sell him a pellet stove or I have to sell him a gas stove. But when my customers come from Laval, or Repentigny or Chateauguay or everywhere around Quebec, I can sell everything."

Business owners say if the city really wanted to tackle pollution, it would require people to install high-efficiency stoves that produce much lower levels of particulate matter emissions.

They argue the hundreds of thousands of fireplaces and low-efficiency wood stoves that are exempt from the ban will continue to spew sooty smoke into the winter air, and continue to generate smog alerts.

While the bylaw doesn't require it, the administration hopes home-owners who really want an open flame, or at least want to imitate its effects, will consider switching to wood pellet stoves, natural gas, propane or electricity.

"I've got the firm conviction that when people understand the impact on their health, when they understand the impact on their kids and on their neighbourhoods, they of their own volition, bylaw or no bylaw, will do the right thing," said DeSousa.

Hamel says the bylaw has had a noticeable effect on business, which is why retailers filed suit against the city in July.

DeSousa believes the bylaw with withstand the challenge in Quebec Superior court.

"I have every reason to hope that the courts will support us and we will continue to apply it," said DeSousa.

The court is expected to reach a decision by the summer.