Petition to allow backyard bonfires in GR ignites debate

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- It's a fairly common sight, and smell, across West Michigan during the summer: backyard bonfires.

But in Grand Rapids, the summer staple is prohibited under city ordinance, which is why a petition to rewrite the ban is igniting growing support online.

In roughly two weeks, Daniel Geurink's petition posted to Change.org has collected more than 1,000 signatures.

Geurink lives on the city's south east side and said there should be exceptions for small fires or chimneys in backyards, as long as they're within a certain size and kept attended.

After seeing a Facebook post from the city's police department reminding residents open burns are illegal, Geurink said he wanted to try and do something, instead of simply posting complaints about it on social media.

"I understand fire can be dangerous and there has to be precautions and you can’t just be burning trash and other things, so that has to be certain rules that have to be followed but I think making it outright illegal that’s just not the right answer," he said.

Nearby cities like Kentwood, Walker and Wyoming have similar exceptions for small fires in portable pits. Larger cities like Kalamazoo also allow open fires, with limits on size and how far they must be kept from buildings.

Re-writing the ban in Grand Rapids was proposed just a few years ago, according to First Ward Commissioner Walt Gutowski. But those plans were ultimately shot down by Mayor George Heartwell who expressed concerns over air quality in the city, Gutowski said.

"I believe, and all commissioners believe safety first," he said, adding he's open to discussing changes, "That's why I say I can see it some areas, on the outskirts where there's larger lots and such, but I'm going to rely on the (fire) chief to give her perspective."

Regardless of whether the petition collects its goal of 1,500 signatures, any final decision to amend the ordinance will be up to commissioners.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

1 Comment

  • commonsense

    I don’t let the city of GR tell me I can’t have a contained bonfire on my property. It is my property and I will use it how I want. You should too.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.