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Fire Prevention

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Educational Messages / Safety Tips

Everyday, millions of people wake up, go to work or school, and take part in social events. But every so often the unexpected happens: an earthquake, a fire, a chemical spill, an act of terrorism or some other disaster. Routines change drastically, and people are suddenly aware of how fragile their lives and routines can be. Each disaster can have lasting effects - people may be seriously injured or killed, and devastating and costly property damage can occur. People entering any public assembly building need to be prepared in case of an emergency.

Before You Enter

  • Take a good look: Does the building appear to be in a condition that makes you feel comfortable? Is the main entrance wide and does it open outward to allow easy exit? Is the outside area clear of materials stored against the building or blocking exits?
  • Have a communication plan: Identify a relative or friend to contact in case of emergency and you are separated from family or friends.
  • Plan a meeting place: Pick a meeting place outside to meet family or friends with whom you are attending the function. If there is an emergency, be sure to meet them there.

When You Enter

  • Locate exits immediately: When you enter a building you should look for all available exits. Some exits may be in front and some in back of you. Be prepared to use your closest exit. You may not be able to use the main exit.
  • Check for clear exit paths: Make sure aisles are wide enough and not obstructed by chairs or furniture. Check to make sure your exit door is not blocked or chained. If there are not at least two exits or exit paths are blocked, report the violation to management and leave the building if it is not immediately addressed. Call the local fire marshal to register a complaint.
  • Do you feel safe? Does the building appear to be overcrowded? Are there fire sources such as candles burning, cigarettes or cigars burning, pyrotechnics, or other heat sources that may make you feel unsafe? Are there safety systems in place such as alternative exits, sprinklers, and smoke alarms? Ask the management for clarification on your concerns. If you do not feel safe in the building, leave immediately.

During an Emergency

  • React immediately: If an alarm sounds, you see smoke or fire, or other unusual disturbance immediately exit the building in an orderly fashion.
  • Get out, stay out! Once you have escaped, stay out. Under no circumstances should you ever go back into a burning building. Let trained firefighters conduct rescue operations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Fire Code

On August 15, 2022, the City of Birmingham approved to update and replace the current adopted 2015 edition of the International Fire Code (IFC) used by the Birmingham Fire Department with the 2021 IFC.  

The IFC is one of a series of codes, including the building code, that were established back in the year 2000 when the top three model code organizations (BOCA, ICBO, and SBCI) in the country merged together creating the International Code Council (ICC).  The IFC is now used as the standard throughout Michigan and many areas of the country and is designed to work together with the International Building Code (IBC) which is the building code adopted as the State Construction Code.  The IBC is a much more comprehensive code than BOCA was on its own. It addresses more issues, along with more detail than BOCA ever did.

Section 54-26 Adoption, of the Fire Prevention Code allows the latest edition of the IFC to be adopted, when new publications are released (three-year intervals).  This ordinance will enable the fire department to follow the most up-to-date fire codes, ensuring the highest level of safety for our community.

Past frequently asked questions that are now addressed in the IFC include:

  • Open Burning, Recreational Fires and Portable outdoor fireplaces (section 307)
  • Key Boxes (section 506)
  • Portable Outdoor Gas-Fired Heating Appliances (Fuel Fired Appliances – section 605)

For information on these and other areas of the fire code please contact the Fire Prevention Bureau at the Adams Fire Station (248.530.1903) located at 572 S. Adams. The IFC is also available for review at the Adams Fire Station and the Community Development Department at City Hall, 151 Martin.
Fire Pits
Fire_pit_jpgThe Birmingham Fire Department often receives calls from residents inquiring whether or not fire pits are permissible in Birmingham. In an effort to help answer this growing concern we have attached a portion of the IFC or International Fire Code of 2021 which was recently adopted by the City of Birmingham

Recreational fires less than 3 ft. in diameter and 2 ft. in height. [Must have 25 ft. of clearance on all sides from structures and combustible materials]

Recreational fires in approved containers [Must have 15 ft. of clearance on all sides from structures and combustible materials]

NO Bonfires without a permit from the Fire Marshal. [Bonfire – Greater than 3 ft. in diameter by 2 ft. in height]

307.1.1 Prohibited Open Burning: Open burning shall be prohibited when atmospheric conditions or local circumstances make such fires hazardous.  NO burning of leaves, grass, trash (including paper or cardboard), other household waste, construction materials or demolition waste.

307.3 Extinguishment Authority: When open burning creates or adds to a hazardous situation, or a required permit for open burning has not been obtained the fire code official is authorized to order the extinguishment of the open burning operation.

307.4.3 Portable Outdoor Fireplaces: Portable outdoor fireplaces shall be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and shall not be operated within 15 feet (4572mm) of a structure or combustible material.

307.5 Attendance: Open burning, bonfires, recreational fires and the use of portable outdoor fireplaces shall be constantly attended until the fire is extinguished.  A minimum of one portable fire extinguisher complying with Section 906 with a minimum 4-A rating or other approved on-site fire-extinguishing equipment, such as dirt, sand, water barrel, garden hose or water truck, shall be available for immediate utilization.

The Birmingham Fire Department will investigate all burn complaints.  The Birmingham Fire Department reserves the right to extinguish any fires within its jurisdiction that it deems outside approved Department guidelines.
Home Safety Equipment
Fire Extinguishers

A portable fire extinguisher can save lives and property by putting out a small fire or containing it until the fire department arrives; but portable extinguishers have limitations. Because fire grows and spreads so rapidly, the number one priority for residents is to get out safely.

Safety Tips

  • Use a portable fire extinguisher when the fire is confined to a small area, such as a wastebasket, and is not growing; everyone has exited the building; the fire department has been called or is being called; and the room is not filled with smoke.
  • To operate a fire extinguisher, remember the word PASS:
P Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you, and release the locking mechanism.
A Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
S Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly
S Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.
  • For the home, select a multi-purpose extinguisher (can be used on all types of home fires) that is large enough to put out a small fire, but not so heavy as difficult to handle.
  • Choose a fire extinguisher that carries the label of an independent testing laboratory.
  • Read the instructions that come with the fire extinguisher and become familiar with its parts and operation before a fire breaks out. Local fire departments or fire equipment distributors often offer hands-on fire extinguisher training's.
  • Install fire extinguishers close to an exit and keep your back to a clear exit when you use the device so you can make an easy escape if the fire cannot be controlled. If the room fills with smoke, leave immediately.
  • Know when to go. Fire extinguishers are one element of a fire response plan, but the primary element is safe escape. Every household should have a home fire escape plan and working smoke alarms.



In 2012, the City of Birmingham and the Birmingham Fire Department made the Knox-Box System available for individual residents.  The Knox-Box System allows the fire department when dispatched to your home, to gain entry without causing damage.

A Knox-Box is a small safe that attaches to the outside of your house in a location accessible to the firefighter/paramedics.  Entry keys and other pertinent information may be placed in the lock box for fire department use.  The fire department has the only master key to open the lock box, and the master key is specific to the City of Birmingham.  After providing the services needed to you or your family, your home can be locked and secured using your key rather than boarding up broken windows or doors because the fire department had to force entry.  This allows a faster, more efficient response, with quicker scene evaluation by the fire department.  All of that can lead to better outcomes when you are dealing with emergencies where seconds can make a difference.

A Knox Box is recommended for residents with serious health problems or residents whose homes are protected by a fire alarm system or suppression system.   In short, if you can foresee that there is a good chance you will need assistance from the Fire Department anytime soon, then you should consider a Knox Box.

Residents interested in the Knox-Box Entry System for their homes can fill out a Knox Box Application and Knox Box Waiver.  For additional information contact the Birmingham Fire Department Knox Box phone line at (248) 530-1923 for further information.