This article contains some suggestions to use to persuade your Fire Marshall to approve storage of high power motors in your garage. Although not guaranteed to succeed, I believe they represent a sane and convincing methodology that will demonstrate to the Fire Marshall that you know what you’re doing.

Here’s how to do it.

Call for an appointment. Don’t try to get anything done over the phone. If he asks what it is about, do not mention a variance at this point. Tell him that you wish to discuss a storage issue involving hobby rocketry.

Solid preparation for your meeting is your key to success.

Find out what regulation your municipality has adopted for fire safety. Your city clerk can tell you. Likely it’s either BOCA or NFPR. In either case, go to your local library and copy applicable portions. Highlight and be conversant of all issues involving storage of explosives, particularly magazines. Both regulations mirror very closely the Federal Code on Explosives.. Bring copies with you.

Get a copy of your housing covenants. Hopefully it won’t go into storage issues. Mine didn’t. Here you’re just trying to anticipate and be prepared to answer questions or objections.

Bring an F or G reload with you. This makes it easy to show the Fire Marshall what you are talking about. Explain how the reloads are used. Emphasize that the difference between these reloads which are hanging from hobby store walls in great quantity and what you want to store involves the size of the reload slug. The composition is identical.

Download a copy of the Material Safety Data and Emergency Response Information on high power reload kits from the AeroTech website. Bring this with you. This will explain to him exactly what the hazardous elements are, i.e. ignition temperatures, fire fighting methods, etc.

Go to the United States section here and download a copy of the BATF Briefing Paper on High Power Rocketry. This will be one of your most powerful presentation pieces. Highlight in bright yellow the portions that talk to the difference between “toy” rocket motors and high power rocket motors. Then highlight the portion that talks to a variance approval for storage of HPR motors in a type 4 magazine in an attached garage of a single family dwelling.

Bring, and be prepared to show him your type 4 magazine. Be prepared to explain all the construction details to him and how they satisfy the regulations before he asks. My Fire Marshall took Polaroid pictures of it to go into his file.

If there are others in your state who have successfully passed the Fire Marshall muster, bring copies of the letters as “examples of what you need in a letter. If you cannot find any such examples, bring him a letter with the suggested content. I did this and he copied it almost word for word. Basically, I paraphrased the BATF briefing paper I mentioned above. Getting this letter from him is the point of all your preparations.

Here is how to outlined your presentation.

  1. Explain that you are a hobbyist.
  2. Explain hobby rocketry. Show him a picture or two of your rockets.
  3. Show him the F or G reload. Explain how you can buy these all day long from hobby stores and they have no special storage requirements.
  4. Explain that motor reloads greater than 62.5 grams become regulated and require special storage per ATF regulations.
  5. Show him the BATF briefing paper. Give him time to read the portions on definitions and storage.
  6. Explain that you know the storage requirements and have carefully followed them. Cover all bases-Federal, State and municipal. Show him that you have copies of all and are in compliance. Tell him that you have consulted housing covenants and there are no problems-if that’s the case.
  7. Offer to show him your magazine.
  8. Tell him what you need from him-a letter authorizing you to store the larger rocket motors in a type 4 magazine which will be located in your attached garage per the BATF briefing paper. Explain that the BATF wants to ensure that you have consulted with and got approval from your local fire official before they will issue the variance.
  9. Show him the example letter.
  10. Ask him what questions he may have.

I hope this helps. Remember to look and act responsible. This probably isn’t the time to wear your cut-off T-shirt and your flip-flops.

Submitted by: Tom Savoie