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Regulations could be lifted for some tents within city limits

Monday, December 3, 2012 | 5:16 p.m. CST; updated 9:29 p.m. CST, Monday, December 3, 2012

COLUMBIA — Many of the tents that are set up for festivals and football weekends in Columbia will no longer need to be inspected by the Columbia Fire Department if an ordinance proposed by city staff wins the approval of the City Council.

A bill amending city regulations regarding tents and "membrane structures" is up for introduction and first reading by the council Monday. It is scheduled for a final vote of the council at its Dec. 17 meeting.

The bill would allow the city to stray from the International Fire Code regarding tents.

The proposed ordinance would:

  • Allow cooking in tents.
  • Not require lighting for open-sided tents used during daytime hours.
  • Lift the inspection requirement for tents covering less than 1,000 square-feet, as long as the tents are up for less than three days. Current city regulations require inspections of tents that are larger than 400 square feet.
  • Maintain the city's 180-day limit on tents that have been inspected.

Phil Teeple, the buildings regulation supervisor for Columbia, said the bill "makes it easier for the city to administer and for people to comply."

"The ordinance is a trade-off between safety and what can be administered," he said.

Assistant Fire Marshal Tim Bach said that the city has five full-time inspectors and that even if the bill is enacted there will still be a lot of tents requiring inspections.

"The longer you have a tent in place the more risk you have," he said.

Bach said the three-day cutoff for tents smaller than 1,000 square-feet would meet the safety requirements of the city while ensuring that tents do not take the place of permanent structures.

Jeff Bradley, owner of the tent-rental business Outdoor Occasions, said that nearly half of his tent rentals would be exempted from inspection with the 1,000 square-foot threshold.

Bradley said that his company installs every tent that is rented and that he would favor the bill as long as tents are being properly installed.

"I would never want a customer setting up a larger tent," he said. 

Supervising editor is John Schneller.


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