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October 7, 2013
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Summit County fire officials amending local fire regulations to include liquor distilleries

Officials with Summit County’s fire protection districts are in the process of amending certain regulations of the local fire code.

Jay Nelson, deputy chief of Red, White & Blue Fire District, said Monday fire officials review local regulations about every six years to adapt to changes to the International Fire Code. The International Fire Code is a nationally recognized set of minimum safety standards that serves as a benchmark for local districts and governments to reference in constructing their own regulations, Nelson said.

That code is revised once every three years, but local fire officials skip a cycle and update local regulations every six years, Nelson said. The last time Summit County’s fire officials amended the local fire code was in 2006.

Last week Nelson, Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue assistant chief Steve Skulski and Dan Moroz, code compliance officer for the Copper Mountain Consolidated Metropolitan District, met with the Summit County Commission during a Tuesday workshop in Breckenridge to provide an update of the most pertinent changes local fire protection districts plan to adopt in 2013. Those changes stem from 2012 revisions to the International Fire Code.

Among the highlights include the extension of relaxed regulations for patio barbecue grills.

Solid fuels, such as charcoal, have been a prohibited fuel source for grills in Summit County since the 1980s, Nelson said. Up until 2006 the fire code only permitted the use of small “Coleman-style” propane bottles to fuel grills in Summit County.

Although that was changed in 2006 to allow the use of larger propane tanks, Nelson said he thought it was important to provide the commission with an update and explain why that 2006 change would stay in effect this code cycle.

“We haven’t seen significant fire activity from propane grills since the code was changed in 2006 and I’ve only been able to trace one significant (grill-caused) fire event since 1976,” Nelson said. “Considering the number of rental properties in Summit County, and the fact that people like to grill when on vacation, we’ve left that in place, but HOAs also have the burden to implement tighter restrictions if they need to.”

Fire officials also decided to amend a section of local code that regulates storage of distilled spirits. Before 2012 there weren’t any regulations in the International Fire Code that specifically addressed how distilled spirits, often aged in wood barrels or casks, should be stored.

Citing two distillery fires this year and the infamous Jim Beam warehouse fire of 2003 — where whiskey-fueled flames reportedly reached 100 feet in height — Skulski said amendments were made to the International Fire Code requiring spirits be stored in warehouses equipped with sprinkler systems.

Because of the high alcohol content, “The liquor created rivers of fire that caused damage to warehouses and the adjacent distilleries,” Skulski said. “We’re starting to see a craft spirits movement in Colorado and we already have a distillery in Breckenridge, so we want to prevent it before we have that type of a fire here.”

Wood casks and barrels are almost always secured by metal bands, Nelson added. When there is a fire those bands expand, allowing spirits to leak and continue to fuel the blaze.

“A sprinkler system would knock down the fire or keep it under control until firefighters could respond,” Nelson said.

The new regulation does not affect businesses or individuals who age wine in wood barrels or casks due to the lower alcohol content, Nelson said. The regulation also doesn’t affect Summit County’s lone distillery — Breckenridge Distillery — because its warehouse already is equipped with a sprinkler system as required by local building code, Nelson said.

However, Nelson added the regulation would ensure consistency should budding distillers decide to call Summit County home.

The Copper Mountain Consolidated Metropolitan District and the Lake Dillon and Red, White & Blue fire protections districts are slated to adopt the amended fire code by the end of the this month, Nelson said. Local towns are expected to follow suit shortly thereafter.

The new regulations will formally be presented to the Summit County Commission on Nov. 12 during a regularly scheduled meeting.


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The Summit Daily Updated Oct 7, 2013 10:02PM Published Oct 8, 2013 02:59PM Copyright 2013 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.