Fire Officials Emphasize Grill Safety

By: Zac Schultz
By: Zac Schultz

Madison fire officials are using a fire Sunday night to emphasize grill safety on porches and balconies.

The fire started late Sunday night on a balcony on West Gorham St. Residents had discarded the ashes from earlier cooking and they started on fire.

Fire Marshal Ed Ruckriegel said Monday that illegal grills on downtown porches are easy to spot.

"We have one over here; one there, one on the balcony over here and this building has one as well."

Ruckriegel doesn't have to look too hard to find renters who are violating the grill ordinance. The fire codes say you can't use a grill within 10 feet of any dwelling with three or more units, unless that building is made of non-combustible material.

Charcoal grills can be stored on the porch as long as the ashes are cold. Gas grills can't be stored there at all.

"It's a function of using them right and using common sense. It's that human behavior that makes the grill unsafe," says Ruckriegel.

The Fire Department could spend all day writing out citations for grill violations, but they don't. They want to emphasize education and awareness.

"We have many more important things to do than become the grill police," says Ruckriegel.

"We much prefer to do fire prevention than to write a ticket after the fact. We want to do community education. We want to help people understand the dangers of having fires on a combustible deck," says Madison Fire Department Community Education Officer Lori Wirth.

Wirth says the high turnover downtown makes it harder to get the message out. The residents at the Gorham St. fire apparently hadn't heard.

"She told our firefighters, 'I didn't know you couldn't grill on a balcony.'"

The fine for illegally using a grill on your porch is $101.

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