The rules for oil burners are found in NFPA 31 (which CT has adopted statewide via the Office of the State Fire Marshal)). The switch is required to be at the entrance to the oil burner room, not necessarily at the top of the stair.
You are right about getting out of the house if there is a fire! But, what if there is only a smell or noise? Wouldn't you want to be able to shut the thing down without getting too close? I know my oil burner has sometimes made terrible noises (and smells). My wife has had to use the switch at the top of the stair, and then call the repairman, not the fire department. On the down side, when my sister-in-law visited, she shut off the boiler, thinking it was a second light switch to the basement! (even though this switch has a red faceplate, and is on the opposite side of the stairway.) We still love her anyway.
These rules are for oil burners, rules for gas burners are much less stringent electrically. Only the NEC rules for a worker's disconnect switch apply.
If you are interseted in other CT codes and regulations, check out the Fire Marshal's web page at: www.state.ct.us/dps
Follow the links to his list of regulations. Tent regulations may also be of interest to we electricians.
Also, the CT State Building Code has amended the NEC. You can check this out at the same web site, but follow the links to the Office of the State Building Inspector. Look for the CT State Supplement.
If you are interested in free seminars, follow the link for the Office of Education and Data Management (my office). We offer seminars for continuing education to CT building inspectors of all types (including electrical inspectors), fire marshals, fire investigators and hazardous materials investigators. Contractors are welcome, but you have to register via fax or mail.
I am doing a 3-hour seminar in June at four different locations statewide on Building code rules pertaining to electricians. Hope to see you!