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Grand Rapids Fire Department offers safety tips for businesses using temporary outdoor structures

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Posted at 10:57 AM, Dec 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-07 10:57:52-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Grand Rapids Fire Department is offering safety tips for businesses using outdoor, temporary structures to keep customers warm while serving them.

Alternative heating sources, such as space heaters, can lead to fires and other unsafe conditions when not used properly, the fire department said.

GRFD encourages businesses to follow heating device manufacturers’ guidelines and stresses that businesses need to pass an inspection before operation.

To request an inspection, businesses may call their local fire inspector or GRFD at 616-456-3900.

“We recognize that our local businesses need to adapt to cold weather and snow to continue serving their customers through the Michigan winter,” Fire Marshal Eric Dokter said. “We want to ensure that they can still operate while maintaining the highest level of safety for their guests and staff.”

The department offers these safety tips:

  • Electric heaters are acceptable in temporary structures but need to meet the required clearances to combustible material. Refer to manufacturers’ guidelines on clearance requirements. Typically three feet from the front of the heater to any combustible material is the norm. Electrical permits are required if circuits/receptacles are added. Electrical extension cords are permissible provided there is only one appliance being powered by a single cord. Extension cords must be rated for proper use and not run through walls or under doors to supply the device. The GRFD recommends infrared-type heaters for use with the public.
  • Gas-fired heaters that are ducted into temporary structures are recommended and will require permits from the Fire Prevention Division. Business operators should contact a fire inspector for inspection requirements.
  • Depending on the type of temporary gas-fueled heating appliances needed and fuel supply configuration, an inspection from the Grand Rapids Fire Prevention and Grand Rapids Building Department may be required. Business operators should check with the community development center at 616-456-4100 for information about gas supply requirements.
  • Portable outdoor gas-fired heating appliances are prohibited in the following locations:
    • Inside any occupancy where it is connected to a fuel gas container.
    • Inside tents, canopies and membrane structures.
  • Portable outdoor gas-fired heaters must also be located at least five feet from buildings. They shall not be located beneath or closer than five feet to combustible overhangs, awnings, sunshades or similar combustible attachments to buildings.
  • Garden Igloo structures have become a popular means to shelter patrons. Business operators must provide the necessary documentation to the Fire Prevention Division proving the correct flame/smoke rating requirements before approval and use.
  • All portable heating devices must be listed by a recognized testing authority – such as Underwriters Laboratory – for use.
  • Access to fire hydrants and fire department connections for sprinkler systems shall not be obstructed.
  • All exits must have clear access to a public way and shall not be obstructed.