Balcony Barbecues – No Smoke Without Ire

It may be considered unAustralian but many people think there’s no place for barbecues on apartment block balconies. Especially in this age of eco-friendly, self ventilating buildings, the very thought of anyone being at liberty to fill their neighbours’ homes with the choking smoke from burnt snags and last week’s fat seem preposterous.

But while many blocks ban balcony barbies, others happily breathe other people’s burger fumes in the knowledge that at some point they’ll be inflicting their own smell, smoke and carcinogens on their neighbours.

With summer just around the corner, we tried to establish Sydney City’s rules and/or guidelines on balcony barbies. The question was met with a puzzled “Rules on barbecues? Why would we need rules?” Why indeed? Well, you could take a look at the New York Fire Department’s views, for start.

According to the FDNY, you should never use a propane barbecue grill on a balcony, terrace or roof. It is both dangerous and illegal (in New York). They go on to say you should only use a charcoal barbecue grill on a balcony or terrace if there is a three metre clearance from the building and there is an immediate source of water (garden hose or 20 litres of water in buckets). In other words: “Balcony barbecues? Are you #@%# insane?”

OK, many apartment buildings in New York are a lot older – and presumably more flammable – than most apartment blocks in Sydney, but even so, you would think we’d have our own guidelines.

It’s no coincidence that the trend towards apartment living in Sydney has coincided with a move to large airy balconies in the design of new blocks of units. And many people would find it entirely reasonable that barbies are allowed on them but whether that extends to a six-burner CarniBlaster with enough room to roast a whole ox, is debatable.

In fairness, NSW Fire Brigades did launch a barbecue awareness campaign late last year but the focus was very much on bushfire issues. And State Minister for Emergency Services Tony Kelly did address the general issue of barbecue safety in a speech to Parliament, including the observation that “people should never let an intoxicated person operate a barbecue.” Yeah, right.

But if your building does allow balcony barbies and you suspect the New York firies might have more of an idea of their potential dangers, log on to their web page at www.nyc.gov/html/fdny/html/safety/barbeque.shtml which has a lot of very good advice, whether you’re on a balcony, in your backyard on in a paddock in the back of beyond.
Jimmy’s Mailbox

I have an elderly neighbour whose bedroom is adjacent to mine. Recently she’s developed insomnia and has taken to playing the radio and TV at two or three in the morning. The problem is that because she’s partially deaf, she plays them at full blast. She’s a dear old thing and I’m reluctant to complain. On the other hand, I wouldn’t mind a few nights’ sleep. – Kieran, Pyrmont.

I could quote chapter and verse about laws, by-laws and mediation services but sometimes these things come down to just being a good neighbour. Invest in a pair of headphones that can be used just as easily with her radio or TV and present them to her as a gift to you both. That way she gets to listen as long and as loud as she wants and you get to sleep the sleep of the just.

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