The case involved clandestine cookouts, duelling neighbours and, ultimately, sparked a deep discussion about the fairness of the city's burning bylaws.

As staff at Port Colborne city hall loaded up six pictures of various steaks which were allegedly cooked over a backyard firepit, Ed Hill took to the podium and began his defence.

The case involved clandestine cookouts, duelling neighbours and, ultimately, sparked a deep discussion about the fairness of the city's burning bylaws.

"What I have is kinda makeshift, but, I thought it was within the guidelines of the bylaw," said Hill, describing the half oil drum he uses as a firepit at his Fares Street home.

The fire, he insisted, is completely safe, but it attracted the attention of his neighbour on June 21, who called the fire department, which told him to put out the fire and stop using it. Port Colborne Fire and Emergency Service gave him a warning in the form of a written citation, which spared him a $600 fine if he agreed to stop using it, which he did -- for exactly one day.

"That second time, I know, I shouldn't have been burning anything, I was told not to," said Hill of his subsequent run-in with firefighters on June 22. "But I was actually just trying to burn whatever it was, like charcoal and some wood, I wanted to reduce it to ashes so I could dump it."

After another fire later that same day brought firefighters to Hill's home again. He was given a third and final warning from the fire chief.

"I went with them, and I had a conversation with Mr. Hill, and made it very clear that continuing with such fires would result in a bill being sent to him," said Chief Tom Cartwright.

Despite the warning, Hill had another fire on July 7 which resulted in a $600 fine. He moved the pit behind the shed and on Aug. 24 lit another fire, and received another $600 fine.

Before councillors Monday night, Hill employed 'the hotdog defence' strategy. Some places, including Port Colborne, include an exemption in their bylaws for backyard cooking. As a result, people sometimes keep a package of hotdogs nearby, so they can claim to be merely cooking if the fire department arrives.

Hill said the primary reason he uses his firepit is to grill steaks. He sent city hall numerous photos of steaks on a grill placed over the oil drum in his backyard, and the photos were displayed in council chambers.

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