My Fire Escape Garden and the Fire Code

Posted on Jan 29 2010 - 5:12am by Mike Lieberman

The complaint that I often hear about my fire escape garden is that it is a fire hazard and that I’m putting lives at risk.

I do respect the fact that it is a fire escape and a means for people to evacuate the building in case of an emergency. This is something that I take seriously because on January 29, 2003, my apartment burned down.

This is just one reason why I make sure that there is a clear foot path for people to walk and that the hand rails are available to use.

Screenshot 2014-04-10 17.40.00Technically, my garden violates the fire code because I am storing items on it. I also break the law daily when I j-walk. I’m not trying to be a smart ass, but it’s one of those laws that’s not always enforced.

The landing space of the fire escape is about 2′x3′ with the containers taking up about 8″. That leaves 16″ of foot space, which is plenty of room for someone to safely walk.

The one potential hazard was the cherry tomato plant, which wasn’t a small plant. I won’t be growing that on the fire escape in the future.

With all of that being said, I do maintain the integrity of the fire escape while using the available space to grow fresh organic vegetables.

What do you think about my fire escape garden?

  • http://www.hobby-garten-blog.de/ Heiner

    I can't say for sure, wether your fire escape is safe enough, but what I can say is this:
    They should build broader fire escapes, so that everybody could grow their own food there.

  • http://www.jpetersongardendesign.com/ Jenny Peterson

    Mike, can you use planters that hang off of the handrail, or does that violate code as well?

  • Mike Lieberman

    These building are at least 50 years old. Not even sure the newer building even have fire escapes.

  • Mike Lieberman

    It all violates code. I'm just doing my best to still keep the area free. I had some soda bottles hanging from the handrails.

  • botanybuddy

    I know you are trying to reuse object for containers which makes them random and in the end take up more space. If you went around to some restaurants or bakeries they often have frosting or pickle buckets that work great and they are dying to get rid of. They are plastic which makes them easy to poke for drainage, but most importantly they have super sturdy handles. The frosting and pickles weigh much more than what you would be growing, and you would be able to hang them on the outside of the rail. You definitely wouldn't have a problem if you are using a light potting mix. Another nice thing is the frosting buckets are shallower than most 5gal buckets so they don't get water logged and are better for leafy and root crops.

    Just a thought for your Zimm Garden..very appropriate topic in his honor.

  • Mike Lieberman

    Thanks for the suggestions. Most of the containers that I have on the fire escape are the big pickle containers. I couldn't use three circular ones because they are too large. That's why I went with the two rectangular ones.

    My soil mix is pretty light with peat moss, vermiculite, limestone and compost.

    What do you think? Are we talking about the same containers?

  • Mike Lieberman

    Thanks for the suggestions. Most of the containers that I have on the fire escape are the big pickle containers. I couldn't use three circular ones because they are too large. That's why I went with the two rectangular ones.

    My soil mix is pretty light with peat moss, vermiculite, limestone and compost.

    What do you think? Are we talking about the same containers?

  • Pam

    Your plants are no problem on the fire escape, given that many people would not be not long, lean and lithe enough to climb over the radiator and stone ledge to get onto it in the first place. It's the building that's breaking the code!

  • Mike Lieberman

    Hahaha. Very good point. The other thing is that there is less room between the building and the railing than where my plants are.