Fire Pit Regulations
Michigan law prohibits residents of cities with populations over 5,000 from using a fire pit within city limits that allows combustible materials directly on the ground. The pit must be elevated above the ground. For a fire pit to conform with this law the fire box, or location where combustibles are burnt, must be raised at least six inches above the ground. This gap must be either open air or a noncombustible material such as concrete or fire brick. A great example of this is metal fire pits on legs sold by many hardware and big box stores.
Cooking is permitted, but must follow the same guidelines. The smoke from an outdoor fire or cooking cannot bother the neighbors. The police can be called and can issue a ticket or a warning. It is a good idea to speak with your neighbor if you think the smoke may cause a problem.
Before having a fire it is recommended that you consult the State of Michigan DNR's daily issued Fire Risk Rating for our area. If the daily fire rating is high, very high, or extreme (yellow, orange or red), please consider waiting until a day when the issued fire rating is very low, low or moderate. A summary of Fire Risk Ratings is provided by the USDA.
If you are interested in constructing your own backyard fire pit that conforms to state law, there are a number of ways to approach your design. The key factor is ensuring that your pit includes a non-flammable barrier of at least six inches between the bottom of the fire box and the ground surface. This material must not have a high heat conductivity. A base constructed out of metal would not meet this standard as it readily conducts the heat of the fire to the ground. It is recommended that the six inch gap come from open air, such as a pit on legs, or from concrete or fire brick. The fire must also be contained on all sides by a nonflammable material, though metal is permissible for this purpose. No part of your fire pit should be constructed of wood or other flammable materials. There are a number of DIY guides available to create safe fire pits that meet the criteria above, such as this one from The Spruce. The key to a good design is making sure that the gap between the ground and the bottom of the fire box is air, concrete, or fire brick.
Michigan Fire Code (307.4) requires that small recreational fires in approved containers be located no closer than 15 feet from any structure.