Township refines outdoor burning ordinance

New rules clearly define recreational fires, open burning west of 66th Street.
The Laketown Township Board of Trustees approved changes to the township burning ordinance to allow people to enjoy recreational fires and make sure those fires remain safe.

The Laketown Township Board of Trustees unanimously approved changes to the township burning ordinance on Wednesday, April 11, 2024, that will allow people to enjoy recreational fires and make sure those fires remain safe, especially in areas with short-term rentals.

The ordinance will go into effect in May after publication in The Holland Sentinel.

The township has been looking at the rules around open burning for about six months and set up a committee to look into possible changes. Trustees Patrick Dietrich and Jim Delaney worked with Graafschap Fire Chief Doug DenBleyker with input from residents who have been split on the rules.

Dietrich called coming up with the new ordinance “threading a needle.”

“If no one’s happy, you probably achieved some level of success,” he said.

“I do appreciate all the work,” said Supervisor Linda Howell.

Recreational fires

The old ordinance did not differentiate between fires for recreation and fires to get rid of debris.

The new ordinance defines a recreational fire as a small outdoor fire used for cooking, warming or a social gathering but it cannot be more than 3 feet in width and it must be in an approved container with a spark-arresting screen having no opening larger than a quarter inch.

The rules permit recreational fires west of 66th Street with yearly approval from the fire department who will inspect containers used for fire.

Open burning

The new ordinance defines open burning as a fire from which the combustion emissions pass directly into the open air without first passing through a stack or chimney. Open burning fires can include brush, limbs, and stumps. Open burning still requires a permit that can be obtained from the fire department or township hall.

Open burning is permitted in the township but not west of 66th Street, according to the new ordinance.

The concern over safety stems from a 2007 fire in the dunes that destroyed homes and property. Battling blazes in the dunes is difficult for the fire department.

The new ordinance makes the person starting or maintaining a fire responsible for all fire suppression costs, liability and damages resulting from the fire.

Short-term rentals

The new ordinance also specifically addresses recreational fires at short-term rental units.

The new rules say rental units must receive an annual Recreational Residential Burning Permit from the fire department. Containers must be inspected and approved by the fire department.

The township may revoke any rental certificate after consideration of the number, character and severity of violations, according to the new ordinance.