City adopts new fire code, calls for safe measures using fire pits

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published October 14, 2015

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CLAWSON — Members of the City Council unanimously adopted the updated International Fire Code last week after working out the details since the summer.

The 2012 IFC was adopted during the council’s Oct. 6 meeting.

“We have had much discussion about this as it was originally presented to us a few months ago,” said Mayor Penny Luebs.

The council began looking at the document in July, when Fire Chief Richard Dylewski presented it to council for adoption.

Luebs said that changes to the document address optional versus mandatory lockboxes for businesses, and residential fire pits.

The council also discussed references to administrative paperwork requirements and the amount of commercial property dedicated to emergency vehicle access and turnaround ability.

Members of the council were against a provision of the IFC that required businesses to install a Knox-Box outside of their establishments for fire personnel entry.

In the third iteration presented to council for second reading Sept. 15, revisions were made to the original fire code to state that purchasing and installing a Knox-Box on the exterior of a Clawson business would be optional.

Council didn’t want to force that decision and cost on business owners.

Dylewski said the cost for a Knox-Box begins at about $300 and increases depending on the model. Approximately seven businesses currently participate in the city’s Knox-Box Rapid Entry program.

The fire chief said that with a lockbox, firefighters can be in and out of a building in 10 minutes instead of waiting for a keyholder or causing entry damage in an emergency situation. He added that fire doubles in size every 30 seconds and that being able to find a fire in the beginning stages makes it easier to control and extinguish.

The council also was not keen on changing the requirements for residential fire pits.

According to the IFC, the size of a fire pit would be reduced to 3 feet in diameter, and the distance from another structure would be increased to 15 feet from the city’s previously adopted 10-foot requirement.

However, after months of researching the matter, City Attorney Jon Kingsepp said that adoption of the fire code doesn’t necessarily mean residents would have to make the change, nor would the city have to change its municipal codes and ordinances.

Kingsepp said that after further study, the law states that the real test is not what the fire code states but rather the promotion of safety and welfare of the public and its protection.

“That in my mind’s eye is ambiguous enough that I would say that it doesn’t interfere with your code provisions, because your code provisions could be equally applicable in promotion of safety and welfare of the public,” he said.

According to city officials, previously purchased and placed fire pits are grandfathered in with the guidelines set before the Oct. 6 adoption of the updated fire code.

City officials said they would see if any conflicts arose based on fire pit size and placement before looking at the issue further.

Dylewski said the smaller and deeper the fire pit, combined with greater distance from a structure and combustible items, the better the safe zone. He said the IFC standards would provide greater protection from radiated heat and flying embers that may start other combustible items on fire.

Dylewski said Clawson’s existing fire code dates back to 1996.