CASPER, Wyo. — Casper Fire-EMS Chief Thomas Solberg said he and the fire department would support establishing a formal appeals process for mobile food vendors seeking permits to operate in Casper.
He said on Thursday, May 16 that at the local level, a standard appeals process is currently not in place, but added that the fire department is considering the issue.
“We’re going to continue talking about it,” Solberg said.
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Solberg added that he thinks the City Council could establish an appeals process via ordinance. He said that other communities he’s familiar with have such processes in place.
Though a formal appeals process is not in place, he added that vendors could request that the fire department reconsider permitting denials or they could appeal to the State Fire Marshall’s office.
Solberg said that one reason he thinks a more formal process is not yet in place is due to the fact that regulation of mobile food vendors is a relatively new issue for Casper.
He pointed to an amendment the fire department is recommending to the City Council to regulate mobile food vendors operating out of enclosed trailers in the same way as vendors operating out of food trucks as an example of how the oversight of mobile food vendors requires further consideration.
Solberg said that one of the reasons the fire department recommended those changes was due to looking at how other communities regulate food trucks. He said that this communication contributed to the fire department recognizing there was an inconsistency in the regulations.
While he said rules in other communities are something the fire department considers, it is also important to note that their rules may not be what is best for Casper.
“They can do more or they can do less, depending on what they think is appropriate in their jurisdiction,” Solberg said.
Under Casper’s current code, only food vendors operating out of vehicles are subject to the full regulations, but not those out of trailers. That would change should Council adopt the amendment.
Solberg also clarified the significance of “grease laden vapors” in the fire code, which he said refers to combustion bi-products produced during the cooking process.
“Any smoke can ignite,” he said. “But it enhances the chances when there is grease in the smoke.”
He said that this is why the fire department thinks it is important to require additional safety measures when cooking occurs in enclosed spaces. He said that in more open-air cooking environments, this risk is not so dramatic, and that is why mobile food vendors not operating out of enclosed spaces would not be required to install hood systems or other fire suppression measures.
Solberg also talked about whether someone cooking out of an enclosed space, but on private property and for their own purposes, would be required to receive permitting.
“That’s kind of a grey area,” he said.
According to Solberg, the important factor is not that mobile food vendors generate a profit, but that their operation could have an impact on public safety.
“We just want to try to protect everybody the best we can,” he said.