Grill concerns barrage Incline fire district | SierraSun.com

Grill concerns barrage Incline fire district

Kyle Magin
Sun News Service

INCLINE VILLAGE — Increased public concern has driven a recent push by the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District to inform the Incline Village/Crystal Bay community about barbecue grill safety.

However, the campaign sparked some backlash from community members when the NLTFPD announced propane and charcoal grills and most other outdoor cooking devices have been banned from the decks of multi-family dwellings.

Officials at the district, including Chief Mike Brown and Fire Marshal Tom Smith, said the publicity of the code caused concern for many residents who then contacted the fire district with those concerns.

In a press release, the district pointed to a 2006 International Fire Code it adopted and put into effect on Jan. 1 of this year which banned grills from multi-family dwellings. The district through the years has periodically adopted the most recent International Fire Code.

The code allows charcoal grills to remain on multi-family dwelling decks if a permanent sprinkler system is in place above the deck. It also allows natural gas grills which are permanently installed on a deck and meet the grill manufacturers’ specifications.

These rules about barbecue grills have been in place since at least 1991, said Smith.

“The reason we’re announcing this now and looking to educate the community is because of complaints. One of those issues came up when someone perceived their neighbor was using a grill carelessly,” Smith said.

He said he has also received complaints from condominium management about people leaving their grills on or creating smoke which bothered neighbors.

“So we contacted the management at local condominium associations to start educating people on the ordinances which have been in place for a long time,” Smith said.

Smith pointed out that the ordinances have actually loosened since their 1991 introduction, which banned all grills within 10 feet of combustible material in multi-family dwellings.

He said unsafe grill use is a particular problem in multi-family dwellings such as condominiums because the one grilling on a barbecue is extending a risk to their neighbors.

“When there is the possibility that a grill could start a fire which would burn another structure, then it becomes a problem for the fire prevention folks,” Smith said.

He pointed to statistics from the National Fire Protection Association, which estimated charcoal grills caused an estimated 400 home structure fires in 2001 and gas grills caused 600 fires in the same year.

Condominium dwellers do have options, though.

“We’re working with condominium associations to set up community barbecue areas,” Smith said.

He said that the fire district and condominium associations are working together to create picnic areas with grills for their members.

Sabrina Ferris, the association manager of Stillwater Cove condominiums, said her association is already taking steps to meet the ordinances.

“We’re in the process of getting two permanently installed natural-gas grills permitted for the use of our residents,” Ferris said. “Some of our residents weren’t happy with the ordinance, but in general they understand that the reason for the ordinance is safety and they accept it.”

Ferris also said Stillwater is encouraging its members who still want a grill on their back deck to purchase a permanently installed natural gas grill.

Smith and Brown said the district does not plan to police multi-family dwellings for grill offenses.

But, Smith said, if grills are noticed, the district will bring the infraction to the attention of the homeowner and the condominium association.