Tent-gate has now been resolved (whew!), but it brought up the related, and far more serious, public safety concern of gas grills on roof decks. The North End / Waterfront is one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the country with abutting buildings and wooden interior construction.
In response to these concerns and access from our friends at Old North, we climbed to the highest point in the North End and found an alarming number of gas (and charcoal) grills on roof decks within a few nearby blocks. The attached photos, taken this week, show the prevalence of the illegally placed grills.
Two years ago, residents of Charlestown found out how dangerous gas grills can be on roof decks. A faulty propane tank exploded on the roof of a condo and the four-alarm fire destroyed two buildings. (See Globe article and photo gallery.)
The North End / Waterfront neighborhood came together last year to rally against hazmat trucks passing on the streets, including those transporting propane. Yet, there appears to be a passive tolerance for the same type of public safety hazard much closer at hand on balconies and rooftops. If an incident similar to what happened in Charlestown occurred in the denser North End, it is unclear how extensive the damage could be or the risk to historical treasures, such as the Paul Revere House or Old North Church.
Roof decks provide open air living and great views, but reports at recent Public Safety meetings show that some irresponsible residents are abusing the luxury. There are reports of intoxicated people urinating off rooftops at parties. On July 4th, beer bottles were thrown at police officers from a roof on Hanover Street. Also last week, officers observed propane tanks being tossed off a rooftop in Mission Hill and arrested four 20-something males. Back in 2010, a female victim actually fell off a rooftop at a North End party.
Gas, propane and charcoal grills are prohibited on balconies or decks above the first floor level, according to fire regulations. First floor gas grills are allowed, provided there is direct ground egress. Electric grills are also allowed on decks and balconies, as are grills with permanent piped in gas, similar to kitchens. The ordinances appear to focus on the risk of the combustible gas and propane tanks.
For more information, see the City’s webpage on barbecue safety or the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services safety handout (pdf). Violators can be reported to Inspectional Services at www.cityofboston.gov/isd (Customer Service), the Mayor’s Hotline at (617) 635-4500 or www.cityofboston.gov/mayor/24.
Councilor Sal LaMattina’s office is also accepting reports of addresses with illegal gas grills at 617-635-3200 or email Akshat in the office at email@example.com. Councilor LaMattina chairs a Problem Properties Task Force that contacts property owners on these types of issues.
Update: Thanks to UniversalHub.com for linking the article and CBS Boston WBZ-TV4 for the follow up report featuring Old North, leading the 6:00 news on July 13, 2012. The video report is embedded below, crediting NorthEndWaterfront.com for the original report.