Brussels' fire brigade concerned about expansion of terrace blocking vehicle access

Brussels' fire brigade concerned about expansion of terrace blocking vehicle access
Photo from the office of Pascal Smet.

The Brussels fire brigade has expressed concerns about the access of emergency vehicles as restaurants and bars in the city are expanding their terraces into the public space in preparation for the reopening of the hospitality sector on Saturday.

Whilst emphasising that the reopening of these terraces is an important part of the step-by-step return of social life in the Brussels Region, and that offering to expand terraces is understandable, the brigade highlighted that the municipal and regional authorities, as well as business operators, should ensure passage of emergency vehicles at all times.

"The plans for extending the terraces must not reduce the road space accessible to emergency vehicles. The location of these terraces must also not impede access by emergency vehicles to blocks of houses (courtyards) or to blocks not facing the street," a statement from the brigade on Wednesday said.

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It added that the terraces must not prevent access to the covers of hydrants and of gas and electricity shut-off facilities.

Last Saturday, various objects placed by local businesses on one street in the city made it inaccessible for a fire truck. Although the fire was small in this case and the delay did not affect the extinguishing works, the brigade emphasised this should be avoided.

The statement made several recommendations for what businesses can do to assist in making roads accessible, including making sure the furniture is easy to move, using fireproof materials, not anchoring the constructions too firmly, and not restricting any emergency exits and evacuation routes.

The City of Brussels’ Department for Hospitality has been working around the clock to process the flood of applications for permits from businesses in the hospitality sector looking to expand their terraces.

“Almost all restaurants and bars in Brussels have requested such permits to expand their terraces to the public area, such as parking spaces,” an employee of The City of Brussels’ administration told the Brussels Times.

The borough of Etterbeek has said it will temporarily close some streets and parking spaces to traffic from 8 May onwards in order to give cafés without a terrace the space to set up an outdoor serving area, according to reports from VRT News.

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