Smoking Airport Employees a Fire Hazard in Atlanta?

If it is dangerous to smoke in certain areas outside at the international airport which serves the greater Atlanta metropolitan area, is it really safe for airport employees to grill their food? Photograph by FlyerTalk member DLATL777.

Airline employees at the international airport which serves the greater Atlanta metropolitan area have reportedly been smoking at restricted areas of the airport where smoking is prohibited — especially near areas where thousands of gallons of fuel are stored — enough to concern Joe Baker, who is the chief of the Atlanta Fire Department.

According to a story reported by Morse Diggs — a reporter for WAGA-TV Fox 5 News in Atlanta — which was the lead story of the news aired at 6:00 in the evening of February 4, 2014, investigators of the Atlanta Fire Department are now issuing citations to employees caught smoking in restricted areas of the airport in place of verbal warnings which used to be issued in order to minimize the dangers with smoking in non-authorized areas because of the proximity of fuel and other highly flammable hazardous materials.

Eleven employees have reportedly already been cited for violations.

I cannot help but recall a controversial discussion posted on FlyerTalk back in July of 2010 where ground staff were caught grilling food supposedly under the Jetway at gate A7 with a photograph shot by FlyerTalk member DLATL777, who posted the following:

“As I pull into gate A7 in ATL this evening; I notice what appears to be a BBQ taking place. When I look closer, sure enough, one of the ground staff is taking large slabs of chicken out of a cooler and placing it on a grill, not 15ft from the base of a 757. They even had the thought of placing a chair in front of the grill.”

FlyerTalk member DevilDog438 responded, “Personally, I highly doubt that complies with local fire code, if the grill is actually underneath the jetway. Most local fire codes specify that grills must be used at a minimum distance from any overhanging physical structure, to minimize the risk of exposure-related fires.”

I would think that a barbecue grill would certainly pose more of a fire risk than a cigarette — but what do I know? I am not familiar with where the areas restricted to smoking are located around the airport, as I am neither a smoker nor an airline employee.

FlyerTalk member pokeable opined, “I’m glad the ground crew had time to organize this, manage the logistics of bringing in a kettle grill, cooler full of chicken, and a seat. I wish the ground crews demonstrated the same dedication to help setup an empty gate when a plane arrives early and the planned gate is occupied by a plane with mechanical trouble. Seriously, everyone on this board has been stuck 30-45 minutes on the tarmac at ATL because there isn’t an available gate ready…no one has a problem with ground staff AT WORK grilling while passengers are stuck on planes?”

However, other FlyerTalk members not only do not see any harm in airport employees enjoying a cookout — but they even encourage it. For example, FlyerTalk member Kanis91 posted that “I don’t see anything wrong with this cookout. I go to at least two BBQs a year hosted out on our flight school’s ramp. There is nothing better then eating BBQ while watching Power-Off 180s by a Piper Arrow.”

FlyerTalk member zsmith2 added, “Geez…what a turn for the worst this thread turned into. I can guarentee you that management OK’ed this cook-out and no aircraft delays were caused of this. Some of you need to lighten up and let us enjoy the little things in life!”

According to FlyerTalk member MikeMpls, “This is much ado about nothing. Jet A (kerosene) isn’t even all that volatile.”

Is MikeMpls correct? With regard to cigarette smoking, could Joe Baker be overreacting?

There are plenty of good points on all sides of this debate. Perhaps the cookout was sponsored by the employer of the airport workers. Maybe the grills were placed strategically, keeping any risk to a minimum. There is the possibility that the cookout was a special occasion which was approved beforehand. Some FlyerTalk members believe that the cookout should not have been implemented in plane sight — misspelling intended — of passengers aboard aircraft.

I am not sure that the practice of airport employees grilling food outside at the airport is still being conducted today — and I agree that airport employees should be entitled to have a little fun — but if a fire chief found that airport employees are blatantly and repeatedly disregarding the warning signs not to smoke at restricted areas of the airport, could that same disregard be extended to cooking food out on a large grill at the gate of a major international airport?

I personally do not believe that that is the case — but I thought that question would be worth asking to launch a dialogue here. What do you think? Please post your point of view in the Comments section below.

Thank you in advance.

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Comments (Showing 1 of 1)

  • mediumpulp at 5:40pm February 05, 2014

    Jet A-1 Jet A
    Flash point 38 °C (100 °F)
    Autoignition temperature 210 °C (410 °F)[10]
    Freezing point −47 °C (−53 °F) −40 °C (−40 °F)
    Open air burning temperatures 260–315 °C (500–599 °F)[10]

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