Council approves new fire-safety regs | AspenTimes.com

Council approves new fire-safety regs

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

New fire-safety regulations at Aspen construction sites won unanimous City Council approval Tuesday, but the council backed off on putting the rules into effect today.

Instead, the requirements for a parking plan at construction sites and safety restrictions on the use of temporary heaters in unfinished buildings will go into effect Nov. 1. The rules will apply to jobs that are already under way, as well as new projects.

The new rules will apply to all residential construction or remodeling of 1,500 square feet or more and to any project involving a multifamily building or a commercial structure.

The emergency ordinance was initially written to go into effect immediately, but the council wondered how many contractors could react that quickly, even though the city building department has been warning builders that the new rules are coming.

Before building permits are issued, contractors will need an approved parking plan that keeps construction vehicles from clogging streets and preventing fire trucks from getting through. In addition, the ordinance establishes various options ? the contractor can pick one ? designed to prevent temporary heating devices from helping fuel a fire. The fire marshal must approve the heating system.

The requirement of shut-off values, which cut the flow of propane when a hose connecting a temporary heater to the tank is compromised, is a “great idea,” said Councilman Tim Semrau, who is also a builder.

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However, the valves apparently aren’t yet readily available from propane suppliers, said Ed Van Walraven, the city fire marshal. Other options include a heat/smoke alarm system, putting hoses in a fireproof casing or having an on-site watchman.

No one will be able to comply with the ordinance today though, meaning the city could shut down construction sites all over town, Semrau said.

“No one’s in compliance with our heat regulations tomorrow,” he said last night. “Nobody has any of this stuff right now.”

Two individuals in the construction industry complained to the council that the city is introducing an additional, cumbersome layer of bureaucracy.

Developer Larry Winnerman asked the council to reject the ordinance, labeling the new regulations ?preventative zeal that isn’t likely to do much of anything.”

Educating contractors on the proper use of temporary heaters would be more effective, he argued.

But Mayor Helen Klanderud prodded the council to adopt the ordinance and let it go into effect soon, as builders are firing up temporary heating systems with the onset of cold weather.

“Particularly since the weather is turning cold very quickly, now is the time to begin this,” she said. “I?m concerned that we are waffling on this.”

The new regulations were prompted by a fire last December at a house under construction on Riverside Drive, which threatened nearby homes. Propane hoses were breached and helped feed the blaze, investigators concluded.

Dottie Kelleher, who lives next door to the house, urged the council to adopt the new regulations.

“I just think that all this stuff is necessary,” she said.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com]