Memo-12-13-2016-Item-12

December 13, 2016

MEMO TO:              Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

FROM:                  Frank A. Rush, Jr., Town Manager

SUBJECT:           Ordinance Amending Chapter 4 – Fire Department - of the Code of Ordinances Regarding Personal Camp Fires - (Summary & Suggested Motions)

The Board of Commissioners is scheduled to consider the attached ordinance amendment that clarifies the Town’s requirements regarding personal camp fires. 

A strict interpretation of current Town ordinances suggests that small, personal camp fires (involving specially constructed stone fire pits, fireplaces, or commercially manufactured devices) are prohibited in Emerald Isle.  I don’t believe this is the Town’s intent, and many of our residents and visitors enjoy such activities, which, if conscientiously controlled and monitored, represent minimal risk.  Thus, we are proposing the attached ordinance amendment to clarify that these activities are permitted in Emerald Isle with appropriate safety measures. 

The attached ordinance amendment creates an exception in the current Town ordinance that outlines basic, common-sense safety measures for such fires, and is consistent with the North Carolina Fire Code.  The attached ordinance amendment permits such fires in specially constructed stone pits, fireplaces, or commercially manufactured devices that are outfitted with a flame arresting screen.  An ad hoc fire pit or open campfire on-site would not be permitted, however, an outdoor fireplace or fire pit constructed as part of an overall landscaping feature, or a typical commercially manufactured fire pit or chimenea that might be purchased at a home improvement store would be permitted.  The Board should note that the attached ordinance amendment requires all such fires to be at least 25 feet from a structure, however, a fireplace or commercially manufactured device with an elevated chimney feature may be located within 15 feet of a structure.  The attached ordinance amendment also requires a fire extinguisher or water source (i.e, a garden hose) to be readily available, and requires the fire to be constantly attended until extinguished. 

The Board should also note that the Town frequently receives inquiries about bonfires on the beach strand, and about the release of “sky lanterns” into the air.  Both of these activities are very difficult to control, with unpredictable consequences, and the Fire Department has routinely informed our residents and visitors that both are prohibited.  The attached ordinance amendment clarifies that these activities are strictly prohibited.

Fire Chief Bill Walker will present this item to the Board, and will be available to answer any questions at the December 13 meeting.