The use of fire pits and freestanding chimneys, available at local home improvement stores, will be regulated by the City of Rolla Fire and Rescue — if a new ordinance is approved.

The use of fire pits and freestanding chimneys, available at local home improvement stores, will be regulated by the City of Rolla Fire and Rescue — if a new ordinance is approved.

Fire Chief Robert Williams presented the ordinance updating the city’s fire code at the last meeting in June, and the council heard the first reading of it.

Presenting it for the final reading Monday night, Williams noted that his department, as well as the city administration and the city counselor, have been updating Chapter 14 of the Rolla City Code to bring the fire code up-to-date.

New procedures, new building codes and new needs for fire protection and safety are addressed in the updated ordinance.

Some changes:

• Fire pits must be permitted for use.

• Three nuisance alarms in a 12-month period can result in a misdemeanor charge.

• Indoor fireworks are banned in bars or any other business that serves alcohol.

• Sky lanterns are banned.

• All commercial businesses must have a key box by Jan. 1, 2015.

• All commercial business with a sprinkler system are required to have a locked sprinkler cap by Dec. 31, 2014.

It was the fire pit permit requirement that caught the attention of Councilman Louis Magdits first. He asked Williams if this meant residential users of the pits and fireplaces, commercially available at local home improvement stores, must have a permit every time they light a small fire in a unit on their patio or in the backyard.

Williams acknowledged that such would be the case.

“Are you for real?” an incredulous Magdits asked Williams after the chief presented the proposed ordinance for its second and final reading.

Asking the chief if he really believed people would obtain permits, Magdits said, “I’m just flabbergasted.”

Williams said requiring a permit to use a fire pit is the same as a bonfire permit, and he noted that it is necessary to keep people safer and to make them aware of weather conditions.

“It does create a hazard for us,” Williams said of the fire pits, later reiterating, “It’s just like a bonfire permit.”

Councilman Tony Bahr questioned how he could enjoy his chimenea if he wanted to light it up on a cool fall night around 11 p.m. and sit outside to enjoy the evening.

Williams said he could not use a fire pit or chimenea after 11 p.m., because it is considered a bonfire and bonfires are prohibited after 11 p.m.

“I respectfully ask that you strike that (portion of the proposed ordinance),” Bahr said.

Councilman J.D. Williams, former chief of the Rolla Rural Fire Department, said, “We’re being too over-protective. We’re over-reacting.”

Councilman Monty Jordan defended the required permit, saying “Are we over-reacting by having burning permits at all?”

Councilman Williams called that “ridiculous” and Magdits said, “We’ve got to use common sense.”

Discussion moved to other requirements of the proposed ordinance, such as the so-called Knox boxes, the key boxes that will be required for all businesses. These boxes will contain keys to the buildings, and firefighters will be able to open the key boxes to obtain the keys and enter the buildings without breaking windows or doors.

The cost of the boxes will be $250-$260, the chief said.

Sprinkler caps for the sprinkler systems will be $120-$170.

City Administrator John Butz recommended the council take another two weeks to study the ordinance. “This is a very aggressive ordinance,” he acknowledged.

Magdits, returning to the required permit for each use of a fire pit said, “I’m just stunned. What if I didn’t do that?”

Chief Williams said, “If we get a complaint, we’ll come and issue you a citation.”

And Butz said the punishment could be a fine of $500 and/or 30 days in jail.

Councilman Brian Woolley askedChief Williams if there had been any problems with fire pits or the freestanding fireplaces.

Williams said there have been “incidents where neighbors objected” and firefighters asked the users of the pits to extinguish them.

“I’d like to see copies of those reports,” Councilman Williams told Chief Williams.