Reminder: Rooftop Grilling Is Illegal In Massachusetts

As the weather gets nicer, fire officials are warning people to obey the outdoor-cooking rules and regulations.

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It happens nearly every year, fire officials say. As the weather warms up, people break out their grills and cook on their porches and roof tops, and in some cases, it leads to disaster.

While there have been no incidents so far in 2013, Boston Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald says not a summer has gone by that officials haven’t had to respond to an out-of-control blaze caused my residents breaking the law. “It’s an issue every season. There are a number of neighborhoods where you can find people in violation of the law. We investigate citizen complaints, but the sheer size of the city and people that live in row houses and attached homes make it a tough task to do,” he says.

Massachusetts state law says that propane grills are not allowed above the first floor porches of homes, and similarly, under Boston rules and regulations, both propane and charcoal grills are not allowed above ground at all, especially on porches and rooftops, and should stay on the ground floor, or away from the house when used for cooking.

MacDonald says there are exceptions to the rule, such as natural gas grills on building rooftop decks, if they are piped in by a licensed professional, and the proper permits are pulled and filed with city inspectors.

MacDonald says those who violate the law risk causing serious property damage and misplacing families who share buildings with other tenants. “You end up with grill fires every year, and it’s a shame because they are preventable. They cause a lot of damage,” he says. “If you are on a second or third floor porch, you can get stuck there with no place to escape. It’s just dangerous. The reason the laws exist is to protect the public, and we would rather see them on the ground, period, and away from homes.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency says that nearly half of the fires caused by illegal grills happen on residential properties between 5 p.m and 8 p.m., and more than half occur in the months of May, June, July, and August.

A good example of why it’s so important is the 2010 Charlestown fire started by a propane tank attached to a grill, which exploded, detonating three other gas tanks illegally stored for grills nearby. It took around 125 firefighters to control the blaze, and more than nine people ended up in the hospital.

MacDonald said Charlestown is one of many neighborhoods with connected housing units, along with the Back Bay, Allston, and the North End. “Everyone enjoys grilling, and it’s fun, but keep it away form the house. There will be some fires that were preventable, and that’s the saddest part of it,” says MacDonald.