GARMISCH, Germany -- Just when you thought it was safe to break out the charcoal in Garmisch, this favorite summertime activity found itself in the safety spotlight after a recent garrison Town Hall gathering here.

The burning issue came up during the Town Hall meeting when a resident of the Breitenau Military Housing Area here spoke about a neighbor firing up his grill from a balcony of their four-story apartment-like building. With the summer Alpine weather fickle and rain always a possibility, the temptation to simply step outside and stoke up the charcoal or propane grill under cover instead of out in the elements safely away from the apartments has led some residents to consider grilling on their covered balconies.

Not so fast, warns garrison Safety Officer Andy "Safetyman" Tuerk and Fire Chief Wolfgang Pauls-Polch.

"U.S. Army regulations and German law prohibits the use of charcoal grills in a building, garage, or on a balcony," said Tuerk. "When people barbecue on their balconies, the smoke detectors can cause false alarms."

An alarm triggers the Garmisch Fire Department and military police to respond to the call on post. The situation can be more complicated off-post.

"If you have an apartment on the economy, you could run into problems based on the house rules you agreed to," adds Tuerk.

Barbecues need to be used in authorized areas only, meaning that you can't just abide by the regulation of maintaining 50 feet from the building and have a tailgate party in the housing area parking lot.

"Grills should be lit and supervised by adults only, and kept clear of building overhangs and porches. Always keep them at a reasonable distance from all combustible structures and vinyl siding," said Pauls-Polch.

While it may seem field expedient to use gasoline to start the coals, it must never be used in place of starter fluid, and never, under any circumstances, place charcoal in the oven, warns the fire chief. Carbon Monoxide is produced and death can result from the toxic fumes.

"Once you've finished with the coals they need to be properly disposed of, as spontaneous combustion can occur even from wet charcoal. Any bags of charcoal that became wet should not be placed in sheds, storage areas, or a utility room until the coal is dried out," said Pauls-Polch. "Charcoal must be cool before disposal and must not be combined with combustible materials. The Fire Prevention Section recommends that used charcoal be placed in a metal container, doused with water, and let set for 24 hours before disposal."

The Garmisch Directorate of Emergency Services advises that if your neighbors insist on cooking on their balcony, the first step should be to notify the stairwell and building managers. If that doesn't work, then ask the MPs to pay a visit. One new Breitenau Soldier said he learned about the prohibition on balcony cooking from his neighbors within five minutes of firing up his new grill.

"There are designated barbecuing areas on Artillery Kaserne with pre-existing barbecues or you can bring your own," said Housing Manager Gaby Furitsch. "Some of the picnic areas with large brick grills directly behind the housing area are very nice. We are always looking for ways to improve them and we'll gladly look at our resident's suggestions, but please, don't use your balconies."