Grill concerns barrage North Tahoe fire district

A campaign by the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District sparked some backlash from community members when it announced propane and charcoal grills were 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.

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 that 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 that 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.

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 said charcoal grills caused an estimated 400 home structure fires in 2001 and gas grills caused 600 fires in the same year.

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