2009 IFC; tiki torches

help me out here, lol....
remember, i'm living on a tropical island. we have nice hotels, with open pools and outside dining, beautiful walking gardens....and nothing says the tropics more than tiki torches.

the local fire department has determined that they are not allowed anymore. per section 308.3, open flame devices shall not be used in a Group A occupancy. pools and restaurants generally are Group A occupancy.

the torches are not the old bottled or canned fuel, but are piped propane that meet all the other requirements of 308.3.1 and chapter 34. and as far as i can tell, we've never had a problem with them.

i looked at the 2012 IFC, and the language remains the same. so any ideas to help preserve our tropical and romantic flames? Smile

Original Post
most of the IFC language appears to come from the UFC (i was reading the 1997 version). but interesting, that the UFC allowed open flames in Group A Occupancies, if they comply with their version of the IFC section 308.3.1. But with the reorganization into the IFC, the parallel exception is no longer there. what happened?

i've seen tiki torches all over hawaii, in restaurants, around pools. and i believe they comply to the 2006 IBC/IFC. in that edition, they are allowed using open-flame devices in assembly areas, only if first obtaining a permit (308.3). bingo. but then later, they prohibit them (308.3.7) in Group A Occupancies. pooh. unless they are using Exception #3, "Gas lights are allowed to be used provided adequate precautions satisfactory to the fire code official are taken to prevent ignition of combustible materials." (that same exception is in the 2009 IFC as well.) but i see gas lights as a different animal than a tiki torch.

so how does hawaii get this to work?
2009 IFC 308.1.6 Open-flame devices. Torches and other devices, machines or processes liable to start or cause fire shall not be operated or used in or upon wildfire risk areas, except by a permit in accordance with Section 105.6 secured from the fire code official.

Exception: Use within inhabited premises or designated campsites which are a minimum of 30 feet (9144 mm) from grass-, grain-, brush- or forest-covered areas.
308.3 Group A occupancies. Open-flame devices shall not be used in a Group A occupancy.


1. Open-flame devices are allowed to be used in the following situations, provided approved precautions are taken to prevent ignition of a combustible material or injury to occupants:
1.1. Where necessary for ceremonial or religious purposes in accordance with Section 308.1.7.
1.2. On stages and platforms as a necessary part of a performance in accordance with Section 308.3.2.
1.3. Where candles on tables are securely supported on substantial noncombustible bases and the candle flames are protected.
2. Heat-producing equipment complying with Chapter 6 and the International Mechanical Code.
3. Gas lights are allowed to be used provided adequate precautions satisfactory to the fire code official are taken to prevent ignition of combustible materials.
thanks Handler, but am talking about this tropical island i'm living on. we can get more rain in a month than you might see all year. there is not a wildfire risk area conflict here.

and yes, i've read the exceptions. so would you accept a tiki torch as a gas light?
i'm wondering if it is about the application. let's take outdoor restaurants and swimming pools for example.

if the torch is not technically in the restaurant eating space, or under any canopy, but in the landscaping around the restaurant, is it then not in the Group A Occupancy? The primary occupancy group for these big hotels would be R-1, with sub-occupancies as needed (like restaurants, banquet rooms, shops, gyms, business offices, etc.).

same for pools. if only the pool and surrounding deck is used to compute the occupant load, is the landscaping around not considered as part of the pool, and then again, not a Group A Occupancy?
seems like little interest in this one....

let me go another direction. is it the intent of the code to determine Occupancy groups for outdoor areas? For anything under a canopy or roof, i would say yes. For anything enclosed by a fence or wall (constricting egress) i would say no, but may use the assembly loading factors in Table 1004.1.1. do you agree?

if not, then...

if the primary function of the hotel is to provide sleeping areas for guests, would everyone agree that the primary Group Occupancy would be a R-1? would everyone then agree that the related spaces would then be defined by their use (large restaurants as Group A, administrative offices as Group B, retail shops as Group M)?

and if i am defining an exterior eating/drinking area (with tables and chairs), i would use and assembly 15 sf/person load factor. and that would be net, per Table 1004.1.1.

so would the landscaping around the eating and drinking area be technically part of the assembly area (assuming of course that it is not under a canopy or roof with the restaurant)? or part of the primary Group R-1?

we spend a lot of time looking inside buildings to do this. but when we get outside, how much do we really apply in terms of Occupancy Groups? that one is rhetorical...lol.

appreciate your wisdom.
brent, not to be crass, but when i was a whippersnapper i learned from a wise old architect that when you go to a public hearing there are two things you can never do (and win)... argue against something the fire department wants, and something a person in a wheelchair wants... setting codes aside the fire department enjoys huge latitude and (usually) respect for anything they say is needed to ensure safety... you have an uphill battle regardless of what codes you cite or how simple or convoluted the 'proof'... when push comes to shove, the City Council will ask the Fire Chief 'do you need this to make it safe', and nobody will go against it... best approach in my experience is to work in advance and in private meetings with the FD and work out something that both sides can agree on... using that approach I've gotten things approved that had never previously been allowed, and had the FD step up and support me at open meetings... example is the first Type V four story residential apartments over podium in downtown LA Fire District 1... gave them some things that I convinced them would make the building safer, and they gave me what I wanted in return... it's all about horse trading with the FD... make nice
generally i would agree with you on this hil. but i'm not in that position. i need to be clear on my code logic, so that's why i'm asking all the questions above. if i'm right, then i have some negotiating leverage. if i'm wrong, then i need to find a way to make this happen, even if it means revising the code locally.

so again, please look at my questions and give me your feedback. thanks.
brent, my overarching point is that setting the code language aside, you might analyze the specific application, premises, potential hazard, building proximity, fuel availability/load, type of activity and users, and any other factor you can think of that relates to whether the open flames would truly be dangerous... then sit down with the FD and BO and offer your analysis, asking if they can see their way to allowing it even if it has to be on an 'alternate method' approach (does it meet the intent, and is it any less safe (or more safe) than what you might be able to do under the specific code language... maybe there are trade-offs that can be offered that would convince them the open flames can be placed in a safe manner, etc. I don't see this as different from any other code provision that might seem to prohibit (or inhibit) an application BUT can be interpreted in (or complied with) in different ways, depending on particular circumstances or individual mindsets (which are pliable). I'll leave the technical 'take' to others who may have more time to get into the code language/provisions (I'm frankly up to my eyeballs right now). Best of luck.

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