Downes Road resident Diane Danvers surveys her own net-protected berries at her hobby farm.

Downes Road resident Diane Danvers surveys her own net-protected berries at her hobby farm.

Cannon Conflict: Loud blasts fray neighbours’ nerves

Those who live near propane cannons worry about the psychological effect of the constant noise

Read part one of this series

Living next to a propane cannon can feel like being in a war zone, according to some neighbours.

Ken Howard and his wife Diane Danvers had lived on Downes Road for some 25 years when the first blueberry farm moved in across the road.

“It used to be a nice, quiet hay field,” Howard says.

But in 2008 the first blasts of a propane cannon rang out across the couple’s five-acre hobby farm.

“When it first started, I thought there must be something wrong,” Danvers says.

The couple’s dog sought refuge in the house and Danvers’ milk cow became jumpy. That summer, a company hired by the couple measured the cannon sound at 92.8 decibels. That year there were two cannons, each firing three shots every five minutes.

By 2011, five cannons were firing across the street. The cannons are allowed to fire from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., with a pause between noon and 3 p.m.

Last year, the grower was asked by the Farm Industry Review Board to modify his practices and try other measures to keep birds away.

It wasn’t enough for neighbour Barbara Fischer, who lodged the complaint. She has since moved to Osoyoos, saying the cannons were the “final straw” that convinced her to leave. Her property was bought by a farmer who has planted much of the land with blueberries.

Danvers and Howard say the cannons have changed the way they spend their time at home, which has been in Danvers’ family since the 1940s.

“We go away during the day,” Danvers says. “It’s quite precious when they stop.”

••••

More than 40 million pounds of blueberries are grown every year in Abbotsford. In the last decade, hundreds of acres of farmland across the city have been plowed under and replaced by blueberries.

Many, but not all, of the farms use propane cannons to ward off birds. It’s in the city’s east, where rural acreages abut the blueberry fields, that the conflict between farmers and neighbours is most felt.

Christine Bellerive-Esmail and her husband, Hari Esmail, bought their six-acre home three years ago in March. Then, one day in the early summer, they and their two young children awoke to the cannons.

Now, Bellerive-Esmail tries to wake up before 7 a.m. so she can shut her window. Her window faces the farm and its cannon, which is obscured only by a row of hedges. If it remains open, she’ll be jarred awake by the blasts from the blueberry cannon next door.

“When you’re not expecting it at seven o’clock in the morning, it’s really a shock,” Bellerive-Esmail says.

The couple worry about their six-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son.

“The noise really affects the kids because they’re up at the first cannon blast,” Esmail says.

They also have concerns about the psychological and physical effects of repeated and long-term exposure to the blasts.

“It’s that anticipation of that second blast, or third blast,” he says. “That can’t be healthy for anybody.”

The Abbotsford-based BC Blueberry Council employs a liaison who tries to minimize conflict between the two groups. But many residents wish the use of propane cannons was covered by stricter rules. There is unhappiness with the provincial government, which quashed a move by the City of Abbotsford to restrict the use of noise devices.

As the cannon fire continued next door, Bellerive-Esmail said: “In order to allow them to have their right to farm, you’re basically stripping us of or rights.”

Related: Farmers say devices needed to keep birds away

Just Posted

Dancers from the Sts’ailes First Nation perform the eagle dance at a welcome banner dedication ceremony on Thursday, June 10. “Ey Swayel” is a Halq̓eméylem term translated as ‘a good day.’ (Adam Louis/Observer)
VIDEO: ‘A good day’ for Agassiz school as Sts’ailes welcome banner is dedicated

Banner hangs above the school’s entrance, welcoming students, staff and visitors

Missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs was found deceased on Thursday evening (June 17).
Body of missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs found

Hobbs was reported missing Monday after leaving his job site in Langley

UFV athletes were honoured for their strength and perseverance during the pandemic. (UFV photo)
Fraser Valley athletes recognized in year without sports

UFV Cascades athletes honoured for strength shown during the pandemic

Abbotsford council has given permission for Chilliwack to use the JAMES wastewater treatment plant for the disposal of trucked liquid waste until the end of September.
Chilliwack gets exemption to Abbotsford bylaw prohibiting liquid waste from other cities

Process in place until September while new facility under construction in Chilliwack

There were a total of 182 deaths of trumpeter swans at Judson Lake over the past winter, according to the Save the Swans website. The lake has the heaviest lead concentration of any known lake, the website states. (PHOTO: savetheswans.ca)
Abbotsford man starts petition, saying lead shot is killing waterfowl in Judson Lake and beyond

Farmer Kevin Sinclair says local lake is ‘poster child’ for swans’ deaths from lead poisoning

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

A search is underway for a 75-year-old fisherman who went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search continues for angler missing between Port Angeles and Victoria

Canadian, U.S. Coast Guard searching for 75-year-old man reported missing Thursday evening

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read