Discussion and debate over whether loosen open burning rules in Royal Oak is heating up.
Last week, the Royal Oak City Commission voted 5-2 to possibly repeal the open burning ordinance. Commissioners directed city administration to review the current language and potentially bring back a new set of regulations for open burning and the use of fire pits in Royal Oak.
The commission action follows a suggestion by resident Pete Collins and others, who asked the city to review its ordinance, especially in regard to changes that might allow outdoor fire pits. Collins told commissioners that he had collected signatures from more than 800 residents in support of modifying the current ban.
Royal Oak Fire Marshal supports current ban
The Royal Oak Fire Department is just beginning its review process in regards to modifying the ordinance, said Royal Oak Fire Marshal Tom Nikkola.
“My personal opinion is I am not for it,” Nikkola said. “The more burning there is, the more there is a chance for a fire. It’s that simple.”
Royal Oak resident Nancy Barnett agrees with that logic.
“A good strong wind can carry hot ashes and embers five backyards away. If someone leaves a window open on a windy night and another neighbor is having a bon fire, the fire risk is just too grave,” warned Barnett on Royal Oak Patch.
Burning outdoors is also currently prohibited in neighboring Berkley. The city’s ordinance makes it illegal to burn leaves, garbage, rubbish, refuse, trees, stumps and tires. Also included are materials of any kind that release odor, smoke or other matter.
The use of Chiminea-type outdoor fireplaces, metal grill fire pit devices, or similar items, is also a violation, according to Berkley’s website.
Some neighboring cities regulate open burning
In Ferndale, the city council approved a new open burning ordinance last October that allows for backyard fires, which had been illegal, as long as residents get a permit and follow certain guidelines.
“The new ordinance makes open burning less problematic,” said Ferndale Fire Chief Kevin Sullivan.
Sullivan believes the new ordinance provides a safe and legal way for residents to enjoy backyard fires and said the ordinance actually provides more control and enforceability.
“People are still burning, but there are less calls and less neighborhood disputes,” he said.
In Huntington Woods, open burning is also permissible, but the fire has to be contained within a pit that's designed for that specific use. It has to have a cover to keep the ashes from coming up, according to Huntington Woods Public Safety Lt. Ben Zawacki.
"There's not a whole lot of leeway. It's a very defined ordinance." Zawacki said.
The Huntington Woods Public Safety Department receives more calls in the summer and fall, according to Zawacki, but they only write tickets if it becomes a constant problem.
"People want it. What's the difference from having a barbecue, really? We just want to make sure it's safe, that's all," said Huntington Woods Zoning Administrator Hank Berry.
Royal Oak city officials are expected to bring back a recommendation and possible ordinance language at a future city commission meeting.