Town asks fire district for help with Big Mine capacity conundrum
Written by Mark Reaman   
Wednesday, 06 February 2013

Under the code, something might be possible at Big Mine

The Crested Butte Town Council is sending a letter to the Crested Butte Fire Protection District asking them to consider ways to allow more than 299 people to attend gatherings at the Big Mine Ice Rink.


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At the request of the council, the town staff investigated ways to allow 300 or more people under the rink’s roof. Currently, under the International Building Code (IBC) that was adopted by the town, no more than the 299 figure can be allowed in the space. But the staff and council is requesting that the fire district consider implementing a “Fire Watch” that is allowed under a section of the IBC.
The request originally came to the Town Council from several local non-profit organizations that expressed interest in renting the facility for larger gatherings and galas. The Crested Butte Music festival held a successful summer gala at the ice rink last August. The non-profits have told the council that they are running out of spaces to hold large events, and the ice arena can fill a need.
A letter from the town to the Fire District signed by Mayor Aaron Huckstep reads, “Although we have investigated changing the specific provision(s) of the code through the Town’s adoption powers, such a change would very likely have a negative effect on our insurance coverage for events with capacity beyond 299 people.
“I am writing to request that the CBFPD assist us by allowing events with capacity in excess of 299 people, in accordance with Section 403 of the International Fire Code. I understand that this section allows for local fire code officials to advance public safety by supplementing events and assemblages through various strategies including deploying fire watch personnel, enhancing fire suppression assets and assisting in orderly exiting, if necessary. I also understand that Section 403 has been implemented to resolve similar challenges in other jurisdictions,” the letter continues.
“Once a plan for supplemental assistance is developed and implemented, the Town will support allowing capacities above 299 people at Arena events. For events that expect capacities above 299 people, we will work closely with the CBFPD throughout the Special Events permitting process to determine event layout, exiting requirements and any other issues that may need to be addressed,” according to the letter.
In the letter, the town suggests that events would pay for the additional expense of having a “Fire Watch.” The town makes it clear that improvements to the big Mine Park area are in the works and the “Fire Watch” is not a long-term solution to the capacity issue.
At the Monday, February 4 council meeting, Councilperson Glen Michel wanted to make sure language was added to the letter making it clear that the council was not willing to compromise safety for short-term economic gain. “We don’t want to compromise our values for this and that needs to be clear to the citizens, and volunteer firefighters and Fire District board,” he said. “We aren’t asking anyone to do something that’s not right.”
“The letter was meant to open up a discussion with the Fire District,” said Mayor Aaron Huckstep. “Public safety is a top priority.”
“It’s a great step forward,” commented music festival development director Kim Bosler. “We’ll see how they come back but we all appreciate it.”
The Fire District board of directors meets next on February 12.