Grilling Safety

Grill FirePracticing fire safety during grilling is extremely important. As with other types of cooking devices, the leading causes of structure fires involving charcoal-fueled grills are unattended cooking and placing combustibles too close to heat. In structure fires, the items first ignited are most commonly the exterior trim and wall covering, while plants, grass, or brush are the most common items first ignited in outdoor fires.

Apartments & Condominiums

Multi-family dwellings have special regulations regarding grills. The regulations enforced by the Chesapeake Fire Department under the Statewide Fire Prevention Code read as follows:

308.1.4 Open-Flame Cooking Devices

Charcoal burners and other open-flame cooking devices shall not be operated on combustible balconies or within 10 feet (3048 mm) of combustible construction.

Exceptions:

  1. One and two family dwellings.
  2. Where buildings, balconies and decks are protected by an automatic sprinkler system.
  3. LP-gas cooking devices having LP-gas container with a water capacity not greater than 2.5 pounds [nominal 1 pound (0.454 kilograms) LP-gas capacity].

The code exempts apartment buildings where the structure, balcony and deck are protected by an operable automatic sprinkler system. Also, the code allows a resident to use an electric grill or one that has a liquefied-petroleum gas container capacity of one pound or less which are similar to those used for camping. Most gas grills sold at major retailers come with a container capacity of five pounds or greater which is prohibited at apartment and condominium communities under the regulation.

Since this code section appears to regulate only the operation of the cooking devices, it is often asked if the devices can even be located or stored in the locations described. In the case of LP-gas fired grills using containers larger than those described in Exception 3, the answer is generally no, based on Section 6.19.11.2 of NFPA 58 Liquefied Petroleum Gas Code which does not allow larger containers to be transported through an occupied building.

6103.2.1 Portable Containers

Portable LP-gas containers, as defined in NFPA 58, shall not be used in buildings except as specified in NFPA 58 and Sections 6103.2.1.1 through 6103.2.1.7.

One of the most common violations involving LP-gas is the storage or use of it inside buildings, particularly residential structures. This is a long-standing requirement that relates to the potential for releasing propane within a building.

NFPA-58 2011 Edition

6.19.11.2 Cylinders having water capacities greater than 2.7 pounds (1 kilogram) (nominal 1 pounds (0.5 kilograms) LP-Gas capacity) shall not be located on decks or balconies of dwellings of two or more living units above the first floor unless they are served by exterior stairways.

8.3.5 Storage within Residential Buildings. Storage of cylinders within a residential building, including the basement or any storage area in a common basement of a multiple-family building and attached or detached garages, shall be limited to cylinders each with a maximum water capacity of 2.7 pounds (1.2 kilograms) and shall not exceed 5.4 pounds (2.4 kilograms) aggregate water capacity per each living space unit

What You Can Have

To enable you to still enjoy the joys of grilling, the Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code does leave room for alternatives to the traditional barbecue grill such as an electric grill.

If you have a gas grill, you can store your grill on the balcony after you disconnect the tank. Note that the removed fuel tank may not be stored on the balcony, within 10 feet of combustible construction or inside of any enclosed structure. Tanks cannot be stored within the dwelling unit.

Please note: The rules included in your lease or condominium's association agreement may be more restrictive than these regulations.