Legal Edge: Laws surrounding outdoor fires

Legal Edge

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Fall in Michigan means so many good things. Cider mills, football, sunshine, fewer bugs and mosquitoes. And for many, it also means outdoor fires.

We asked local attorney Bryan Waldman to explain the laws surrounding bonfires and other outdoor fires.

“So the state laws that govern open fires or open burns are the environmental protection act, but it interplays with other laws like the air pollution control act, the forest fire protection act. Then you have to look at local ordinances and under the law, the local ordinances can be more restricted. Then the state ordinances, but generally they’re going to be more lenient in rural locations and less lenient and urban locations, which makes sense, because people are close together and fire has the potential to do more harm,” said Waldman.

When people burn leaves and branches that gather on their property, that’s typically referred to as an open burn.

Open burns are generally going to require a burn permit, which you’ll get from your local government, city township, or local fire department. It will have restrictions on when you can burn how big the burn pile can be, what can be contained in it, what hours, how close it can be to your home.

“It’s going to only allow you to do that in larger pieces of property, more rural settings in most locations with at least an acre of land. In some locations, I believe… requires two acres,” said Waldman.

What about fire pits? Do you need a permit for those?

“No, you don’t,” said Waldman. “If it’s just a recreational little firepit for cooking or just sitting around the bonfire. Roasting marshmallows, then you’re going to just need to know what your local municipal ordinances are. And every city is going to be a little bit different, but generally, there’s going to be rules that say you have to be at least 25 feet away from any structure and 25 feet away from your neighbor’s property.”

Before you start any kind of fire, it’s important to know that you’re responsible for what happens if something goes wrong. It’s also important to make sure you have insurance covering fire-related disasters.

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