Township Fire Chief And Saugatuck Zoning Administrator Offer Proposal To Amend Fire Rules
“What is wrong with a little recreational fire to roast marshmallows? That is why we revised it (the existing ordinance regulating “open fires”) so that it could be allowed,” said Saugatuck Township Fire District Chief Greg Janik during the Saugatuck City Council meeting on Monday.
Janik and Saugatuck Zoning Administrator Cindy Osman reviewed the current law and developed a proposal to amend it following some complaints from neighbors to city hall about smoke from fire pits drifting into adjacent properties. There were also complaints about one particular incinerator used by a resident to warm his home during the winter.
“The existing language is outdated,” said Osman.
She and Janik want to add a whole section in the ordinance addressing and allowing for “recreational fire” as long as the fire is “constantly attended” and an appropriate fire extinguisher is readily available.
The proposal also explicitly prohibits the burning of any garbage.
“This (amendment) aligns with the International Fire Code and mimics what other cities do throughout the state (of Michigan),” said Osman.
Saugatuck City Council Member Mark Bekken took issue with the section of the proposal addressing incinerators, including the incineration of wood or other solid waste.
While incinerators—different than open air fires in that incinerators entail a chimney where smoke passes through—would be allowed under the proposal, however, the proposed language at the same time wants to prohibit “visible vapors.”
“It borders on the ridiculous,” said Bekken, noting that smoke and its nuisance was too much of a subjective issue to regulate.
Bekken argued the amendment would constitute a “violation of personal rights.”
Janik offered his thoughts on the subject, saying smoke nuisance issues are few and far between in his many years of firefighting service.
“As far as vapor or odor, I don’t think that is going to be an issue,” he said.
Janik also added that when it came to that rare and serious case of nuisance caused by smoke, the city would be faced with a conundrum: a person suffering from legitimate health issues versus a person with a recreational fire. “No one can burn garbage, it doesn’t matter where or how it is done,” he added.
The city council tabled the proposal, citing the need for further review so as to address the expressed concerns.