Want a backyard fire in Grand Rapids this weekend? Get a permit and learn the rules

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - A nice weekend ahead means that many of you may be thinking about a backyard fire.

This year, there is a change in regulations for people living in the city of Grand Rapids. They are now legal inside the city, but there are some rules to follow.

Grand Rapids Fire Marshall Ric Dokter explained the rules to FOX 17 Friday.

First, you have to get a permit. You can apply for one online on the City of Grand Rapids website here. The permit costs $50.

To qualify for a permit, you have to have at least 5,000 square feet of property and the fire must be contained in a portable, elevated pit.  Brick fire pits are not allowed.

Then the fire must be at least 20 feet from the edge of your lot and 20 feet away from buildings.  It also has to be 15 feet or more away from any overhead wires.  You also have to have a way to extinguish the fire if necessary.  Also, only seasoned, dry firewood can be burned.

And one more thing - the two homes to your right, to your left and behind you must give consent.

So far, 54 people have applied for permits and only 25 have been issued.


The penalty for burning without a permit is $150 for your first infraction.  Police responded to 25 complaints of unauthorized burns in April already.

Burning will also be prohibited on Clear Air Action Days and any days that the state of Michigan has statewide burning bans.


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  • J.B.

    “And one more thing – the two homes to your right, to your left and behind you must give consent.”
    Um, wouldn’t that be THREE houses that need to give consent?
    I know…math is hard…

    • Michael

      Math isn’t hard but apparently reading comprehension is.

      The statement refers to two houses to your left and two houses to your right. Not just your next door neighbor.

      P.S. – that’s more than 3.

      I know. Math is hard.

      • J.B.

        Well, Mr wizard Just how many houses do you need permission from then?
        And dont forget…people live across the street as well…;)

        • J.B.

          My point was..it is worded so that even if you get 3-6 or even 8-10 neighbors permission and a 50 dollar “permit”
          if someone complains..
          You still get the 150 dollar ticket.
          nice huh?

  • les

    Great public information report! These backyard fires are a hazard to our health as well as a danger to our homes. And GR already exceeds the EPA standards for ozone and these fires add significantly to the problem.

  • Bill

    Never knew it was illegal before, since it’s so common. Doubt many people will go through that huge hassle and pay 50 when they always did it for free and never had to do paperwork and get permissions. As long as you don’t get cited more than every 3 times on average you come out even or ahead on money, and way ahead on time. Guessing there will be very little compliance with this regulation even among the few who find out it exists

  • Keith Harris

    You have to pay 50 bucks just to pay for a bomb fire in your own backyard? 😭😭😭 man I’m glad I moved out of GR they have rules and regulations on everything next thing you know they gone start charging to use your own bathrooms

    • Michael

      Would you rather it be banned completely?

      It’s a city. Homes inside a city are very close. A lot of people appreciate being able to open their windows at night without having to smell the neighbors bonfire.

      A $50 application and $10 yearly renewal is reasonable. A lot of resources go into processing an application. They have to look up who your neighbors are, send out letters, wait for responses and process the responses before approving or denying the permit. It’s not just rubber stamped like many permits.

      • svede

        No, they aren’t all very close. As I posted below my fire would e 200 feet away from the left, over a quarter mile away from my right and 100 feet away from in back of me. I’m not even sure how they’d determine who the 2 houses to the right are. ONE SIZE DIES NOT FIT ALL. In some of the areas you describe there are very likely 2 families in each home as well and as example 200 feet away on just one side could impact 10 families. A poorly written ordinance.

      • T.

        Michael has it right on this one. I can speak from firsthand experience as I do live right in the heart of GR where the houses are no more than 15 feet from each other. I have a next door neighbor who is constantly (about 2-3 times per week on average) burning fires in his backyard. I have no central air conditioning in my home, therefore all of my windows are typically open during the summer months. On the many occasions that my neighbor is having yet another “backyard bash” my entire home reeks of bonfire smoke. I have no other choice but to shut all of my windows and suffer with the heat. I have tried leaving them open but our houses are so close together that I have gotten nauseous/headachey from the strong smell of smoke. Reading this article has enlightened me though. At least I now know there’s some sort of repercussions for doing this. I feel there is very little regard for one’s neighbors if you’re lighting bonfires and living in the city. This is the reason people go camping/live in the country. So they can do these sorts of things without bothering any neighbors.

  • Dana

    What if it’s a clean burning fire. Like propane fueled? Do the same rules apply? I’ve heard mixed reports on this.

  • svede

    Ahhhh, the joys of living in Grand Rapids. The closest home to my left would be 200 feet away from my fire, over a quarter mile to my right and at least 100 feet in back of me. They write rules for the densely populated inner city with 35-40′ wide lots when my own land could easily fit all of the houses that would be impacted in those dense areas. One size does NOT fit all dear city.