Food trucks could soon be growing their Fairfield presence. Here’s why.

Fairfield is making new plans to ensure food trucks operate safely in the city.

The Ohio Fire Marshal has mandated that fire departments inspect any mobile food unit, which includes food and ice cream trucks, hot dog stands and mobile food trailers. The rule, which was written in 2017 and enacted this year, says these inspections must be performed before any mobile food unit can operate within the city.

Fairfield doesn’t allow food trucks to operate outside of special events. After determining how to execute the state-mandated inspections, officials will consider possible zoning changes that could allow for wider operation of these mobile food units.

Fairfield City Council discussed the issue in a recent work session, which City Manager Mark Wendling said was the first of “a couple conversations” about the mobile food units.

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“This (discussion) will solely deal with the state fire marshal rules. At some point, we really need to do look at them and how our current zoning ordinance governs them,” he said. “That’s something we need to address in the near future.”

Development Services Director Greg Kathman said it could be later this year when Fairfield considers zoning regulations. City Council could be presented proposed legislation on the city’s safety inspection of the units in four to six weeks.

Food trucks operate in many communities in southwest Ohio. West Chester Twp. has a large annual food truck rally at Union Centre Boulevard, and Jungle Jim’s in Fairfield has food trucks at its annual Fall Bash event.

Fairfield Fire Chief Don Bennett said the mandated inspections would be time-consuming, as annual inspections could take around 90 minutes to perform.

“Basically because of the growth of the mobile food units and the popularity of it, (the state fire officials) have decided to adopt basic safety measures to be followed,” Bennett said. “What we will be proposing is we take an annual inspection that’s done by another jurisdiction that has a credible program in force.”

The fire chief said the department has been in talks with other fire departments, including Blue Ash, Springdale, Cincinnati and Hamilton, and officials intend to reach out to West Chester Twp., about accepting their annual inspection reports if they have similar standards to the city’s.

Inspections cover a number of items, from the presence of carbon monoxide monitoring and fire extinguishers to compliance with proper electrical wiring and commercial cooking equipment and hood suppression.

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Annual inspections will cost $25, and vendors will receive a permit sticker, if City Council approves the proposed plan.

In addition to an annual inspection, a mobile food unit could receive a random inspection if it operates within the city, according to Bennett. Departments are to do a brief inspection whenever they operate within the jurisdictional boundaries, but the chief said there are questions. Mobile units don’t always set up at the same location every day.

Bennett is proposing that any permit-less food truck vendor not be fined at the beginning. He said there needs to be an educational period and informational brochures on rules would be handed out.

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