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Subject: Propane Grills on Balconies & Fire Codes
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CarolR11


Posts:0


03/20/2013 1:34 PM  
Our concrete & steel high-rise was inspected by the new fire marshall yesterday. Our PM emailed us directors to say that he'll enforce a law that says no propane BBQ grills are permitted on our balconies/patios/decks if they're closer than 10 feet to walls. The PM says that this new marshall in town is going to ban such grills in the numerous highrises in our urban setting. The FM reportedly said that the previous FM was "too lenient."

I poked around online a bit in CA and only see where that rule applies when such grills are 10' from a "combustible" surface. I cannot find it specific to my city.

Anyone know about such laws in CA or even elsewhere?
LauraR5
(Tennessee)

Posts:216


03/20/2013 2:28 PM  
It's international fire code, and I am very familiar with it because we have had this same issue in my community.

Propane and charcoal grills may not be used on combustible decks or within 10 feet of multi-unit dwellings. This is what it says:

The 2003 International Fire Code prohibits the use of charcoal and gas grills and other open burning devices on combustible porches or within 10 feet of combustible construction. There are exceptions for certain homes and where buildings and porches are protected by an automatic sprinkler system.

Our fire marshal here in Nashville goes further to prohibit the storage of propane on our patios, so we don't allow gas grills at all. We allow charcoal grills to be used in the yards, but they cannot be stored on patios. We have gone round and round with our fire marshal to create a community policy that doesn't violate city law, and this is what we came up with. However, it doesn't seem to be enforced at any other condo community in town. One, however, did have a charcoal grill burn down an entire building and the insurance wouldn't pay because the tenant (it wasn't even the homeowner) was breaking the law.
LarryB13
(Arizona)

Posts:4099


03/20/2013 3:27 PM  
I learned many years ago that not all fire marshalls are created equal.

Circa 1970 I worked for an architect in Phoenix who was supervising completion of the then-new county hospital. The city fire marshall mandated that the doors on the first floor were to open inwards so that in the event of a fire everyone would go down a flight of stairs at the center of the building, descend into the basement and exit a tunnel into the parking lot some distance from the building. The contractor installed all the doors to meet the fire marshall's decree, even though it was counter-intuitive to have people on the ground floor of a burning building head toward the center instead of out the nearest door.

Before the building was completed, a new fire marshall was appointed and he about died when he saw the plans for the hospital. He immediately ordered all the first floor doors to be reversed so that they once again permitted exiting the building quickly as a normal person would.

CarolR11


Posts:0


03/20/2013 4:09 PM  
Thanks, Laura. I believe that our concrete and steel structure is non-combustible. Our HOA never has permitted charcoal grills. I found a little more online for my city, but it says I need to go to the library to read the codes!

Thanks to you, too, Larry. I sure have heard that fire marshals can have widely divergent opinions, and that some don't make sense. I actually think there'll be quite an uproar in our urban area if the FM truly bans these--many of our 220+ units have them, but we only have two community grills that could each handle two servings at a time. I think most of the other high-rises are set up the same way. In our FM's territory, I'm guessing there are maybe 30 high-rises! Enforcement?

I'd still love to hear from anyone else about this topic.
CarolR11


Posts:0


03/20/2013 4:10 PM  
Thanks, Laura. I believe that our concrete and steel structure is non-combustible. Our HOA never has permitted charcoal grills. I found a little more online for my city, but it says I need to go to the library to read the codes!

Thanks to you, too, Larry. I sure have heard that fire marshals can have widely divergent opinions, and that some don't make sense. I actually think there'll be quite an uproar in our urban area if the FM truly bans these--many of our 220+ units have them, but we only have two community grills that could each handle two servings at a time. I think most of the other high-rises are set up the same way. In our FM's territory, I'm guessing there are maybe 30 high-rises! Enforcement?

I'd still love to hear from anyone else about this topic.
TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:16542


03/21/2013 2:11 AM  
Posted By CarolR11 on 03/20/2013 4:10 PM
Thanks, Laura. I believe that our concrete and steel structure is non-combustible.




Based on your posting and Laura's citation of the fire code, I think the actual issue is having the grills within 10 feet of the building.
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:8711


03/21/2013 3:21 AM  
It is not just because the area may be concrete and steel and less likely to catch fire. There are other related accidents besides fire from grills on balconies. What if someone using it burns themselves and in their panic knock over something? Then factor in kids and pets around grills and it's not that pretty. So don't just assume it's about "fire". Considering there could be a gas leak or explosion risks involved, I don't blame the fire marshal restrictions.


Former HOA President
JohnB26


Posts:0


03/21/2013 7:23 AM  
As per the NFPA:

NO GRILL WITHIN 10' OF A FLAMMABLE STRUCTURE OR UNDER AN 'OVERHANG'

because:

curtains and or blinds may be flammable

windows doors may be open

flammable items may be on decks/porches/balconies

excessive risk in the event of ANY fire in building

propane gas tanks are explosive in certain circumstances

'google' BLEVE ~ boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion

geeeeze ~ this is a common sense issue
LauraR5
(Tennessee)

Posts:216


03/21/2013 7:47 AM  
I just wanted to say that even before I bought my townhouse, I rented a lot of places and nowhere with an overhang were we ever allowed to have a grill (and this was way before this 2003 revision to the international fire code). We have patios at our place, and while I see the fire marshals point on it (and I am really against allowing people to store propane on their decks), I just wish they'd be more consistent with enforcement. All of the other communities turn a blind eye to it and seem to get less community inspections, so we look like the bad guys. At the condo I rented we had wooden decks and vinyl siding, and every single homeowner had a charcoal or gas grill and nothing was ever said to anyone, nor was anyone fined. At my current house, I have an electric grill, and it's OK, but it's not the same. When it dies, I plan to get a portable charcoal grill and use it in the grass like a lot of my neighbors do.

Which is a thought for the OP... Could your neighbors get portable charcoal grills and use them in the common areas like the common grills, which you say are too small for the demand? That might be a solution, although it doesn't solve the issue that some folks probably have really nice gas grills on their decks that they'll have to remove.
CarolR11


Posts:0


03/21/2013 10:10 AM  
Thanks for the idea, Laura. Our rules specifically state that none of our possessions, "without limitation" may be placed in the common areas and few are named including grills, chaises lounges, etc. The common areas all are hardscape--pathways, circular drive, and planters everywhere. Our two common area grills are good-sized and built into a granite structure with work surface around them. They already get a lot of use as some folks don't want to consume space on their own balconies.

We live in a mild seaside setting, where outdoor living is year round. Any evening I can look out my windows and see people using their balcony grills in our twin tower and on the balconies of two nearby towers. Like I say, enforcement is gonna be interesting.

My husband & I had an electric grill years ago when we lived in a downtown Chicago highrise with no balcony. Wasn't good at all, but maybe they've improved. Unlike most of our neighbors, our own grill is small and uses a l lb. 4oz propane container. A few neighbors also have propane heat lamps that stand about five feet tall--assume they'll be banned too?
JohnB26


Posts:0


03/22/2013 8:09 AM  
to repeat:

'google' BLEVE ~ boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion

see; http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=S3PgwSGWvkw

about 2 minutes in a 1# propane goes bleve, imagine a 20# on a balcony
CarolR11


Posts:0


03/22/2013 7:27 PM  
I did google BLEVE, John26, and learned about what causes it. I also read an article that says such incidents are very, very rare, but it didn't cite stats. Oh, and it was written by a propane dealers org. Kinda like SC's Mark Sanford writing about the virtues of marital fidelity ; )
JohnB26


Posts:0


03/24/2013 9:07 AM  
of course they are 'rare'

so are high-rise fires

combine a 'rare' hi-rise fire with a 'rare' propane tank and you get ?????????
JohnB26


Posts:0


03/24/2013 9:11 AM  
CarolR11;

did you watch the u-tube video?

about 2-3 minutes in is the BOOM

that was a 16 ounce 'bernz-o-matic' propane in a private garage

imagine a 20 pounder on a balcony


ps. i am a retired industrial plumber/fitter who has served (with training) on many 'fire brigades' and who knows something about fire safety (or lack thereof)
JohnB26


Posts:0


03/24/2013 9:21 AM  
from: http://www.propane101.com/propanecylinderexplosions.htm

Propane Cylinder Explosions
Cylinder explosion videos can easily be found browsing the internet. A search on a video website for propane explosions will normally yield numerous results. Most all of these videos share a common theme, the propane cylinders are placed on a fire or source of extreme heat.


? would a fire place the cylinder in a 'source of extreme heat' ?

DOH
CarolR11


Posts:0


03/24/2013 9:57 AM  
JohnB26. I guess "DOH" is right because I don't understand why you're beating this into the ground. I wrote that I questioned the info from the propane dealers or manf. org. partly because they has no statistical data to back up their claims.

And now you write: "? would a fire place the cylinder in a 'source of extreme heat' ?." Do you mean a house that's on fire? Or am I just too dense to grasp what you wrote? Or are you just angry with me because I made fun of Mark Sanford?

JohnB26


Posts:0


03/24/2013 10:16 AM  
oops ..... shot myself in the foot when i drawed too quick

sorry to offend

why are rational adults even DISCUSSING flammable gas cylinders out on balconies of multi-family buidings which require working smoke detectors for safety ?

propane tanks and habitable space(s) do NOT BELONG TOGETHER

PERIOD

MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:8711


03/24/2013 10:19 AM  
I always knew that is why you post "grumpy" on here JohnB... You got your Period! LOL!!! Sorry could not resist!

Former HOA President
JohnB26


Posts:0


03/24/2013 10:21 AM  
just in case:

1) propane stored on balcony

2) serious fire in building

3) tank gets hot and ruptures

either:

3a) fire fed by escaping (vented) propane

or

3b) tank explodes in a BLEVE

EITHER WAY the tank is the cause of additional death or property destruction


ps. would you store gasoline on the balcony ? why not, it would be safer than propane !
JohnB26


Posts:0


03/24/2013 10:22 AM  
good one MelissaP

;)
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