Poudre Fire Authority: Be careful with those barbecue grills

While cooking food over an open flame is synonymous with Colorado summers, Poudre Fire Authority reminds residents of apartment or condo complexes that aren’t protected by a fire-supression system that using barbecue grills or smokers on balconies is prohibited.

Violating the International Fire Code as it pertains to open-flame cooking devices in multi-family buildings (three or more attached units), is not only illegal but can potentially harm those around you. A fire that starts in one apartment unit can quickly spread throughout the main building, putting lives and property at risk.

“These fires almost always impact multiple units and often result in significant fires, as they spread on the exterior and enter attics. Fires can move into concealed places where they can grow and spread throughout the building,” assistant fire marshal Michal Jaques said.

The risk to life and property is all too real. On Jan. 10, the occupants of the multi-family building at 1112 Davidson Drive in Fort Collins awoke to flames on a second-floor balcony. Residents were able to escape with minimal injury and notify others in the building. But firefighters were met with a well-involved fire extending into the attic that caused approximately $550,000 in damage.

The fire’s cause? Improperly stored ashes from a barbecue grill.

Another fire, caused by charcoal briquettes in a gas grill, displaced 16 people and two cats this week in Colorado Springs.

Charcoal burners and other open-flame cooking devices — barbecue grills, wood or pellet grills, or wood or pellet smokers — shall not be operated on combustible balconies or within 10 feet of combustible construction, according to laws pertaining to open-flame devices.

This prohibition comes from the potential for hot embers to fall from the firebox of the cooking device and ignite a combustible surface, such as a wooden balcony or deck. The 10-foot separation also reduces the likelihood that fire-starting or cooking flare-ups will come in contact with combustible wall construction that is easily ignited.

There are exceptions

Barbecues and other open-flame devices are permitted to be used at single-family detached dwellings, as well as on the decks and balconies of multi-family buildings protected by an automatic sprinkler system.

People are also allowed to use liquid petroleum-gas cooking devices that have a liquid petroleum container with a water capacity less than 2.5 pounds. An example is a small, tabletop grill or cooking devices fueled by a 2-pound (camping) propane cylinder, or appliances that use an infrared or electric element.

Residents, landlords and complex managers are asked to confirm that lease agreements and association covenants require owners and tenants to follow the fire code. Lease agreements may also address related consequences.

You may review the 2012 International Fire Code, Section 308.1.4, at bit.ly/openflamelaw. This code applies to anyone within Poudre Fire Authority’s 235-square-mile district.

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