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Ask the Fire Marshal

Very special thanks to Fire Marshal Jerry Alvarez for his candid discussion of the Portland fire code, and his grace under pressure as he fielded tough questions from us theatre folk.

If you'd like to contact Jerry, you can reach him at or by calling 503.823.3934.

Special thanks also to:

Bud's Lites

Hollywood Lights

Pro Sound and Lighting

for their generous donations.

Some ideas which came from our discussion:

  • A resource book for Portland Area theater that pulls all the relevant fire/safety regulations and contact info into one place for people.
  • An exploration of firearms in the theater - safety concerns when using blank firing ammo, alternatives to using real guns and a primer on the nebulous areas of oversight that various governmental regulators have over your use of firearms in the theater.
  • A future networking event on the ABCs of Electrical Code as they relate to theater, with a special focus on small theaters and found spaces. The goal would be to give people who are considering producing shows in found spaces or with very low budgets some guidelines on how to make sure their Frankenstein-ed lighting systems won't burn the place down. Ahem. You know what I?m talking about.
  • Advocacy. If we want the Fire Marshall's office to be more responsive to our needs and concerns, and to not create arbitrary regulations that adversely affect our ability to do business, we need to be collaborating as a theater community to advocate with the city council (in particular Erik Sten.) We'd like to form an advisory council of TDs and MEs (that's Tech Directors and Master Electricians for the acronym challenged) charged with putting together a wish list of things that would make working with the Fire Marshall's office easier, cheaper and better. If you are an ME or a TD expect a call from us soon.

Some info you may not know:

Conditional Use Permits are FREE, and are required for things like gunshots or even lighting matches. They are available through the Fire Marshal's office. Please allow 30 days for processing - they can happen more quickly, but don't expect them to get approved overnight.

When the Fire Marshal comes to inspect your space, they're going to look primarily for appropriate occupancy levels, and appropriate exits. Their concern is primarily for the safety of the public in an emergency situation.

Links to more resources:

Seasonal and Special Events regulations
Rules regarding things like hand-held candles and small scale special effects

Title 31 Fire Regulations
The complete Portland fire regs - here are some pertinent sections:
   Permits and Fees Required
   Special Permits and Penalties (pdf)

Permits and Forms
Permit Counter info, and some downloadable forms.

OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)
Searches for "theatrical" and "entertainment" will yield interesting topics.

ESTA (Entertainment Services and Technology Association)
Technical Standards pages include documentation regaring topics like "Fog and Smoke" and "Control Protocols".