Safety first with fire prevention |

Safety first with fire prevention

Gareth S. Harris

What is the California Fire Code and what impact does it have on construction projects throughout the El Dorado County unincorporated lands under the jurisdiction of the Lake Valley Fire Protection District? This is a question causing much debate and contention throughout the building community.

On March 10, 2005, the board of directors of Lake Valley signed on to the new California Fire Code, in February of this year started reviewing plans for building permits issued by El Dorado County for projects located within the district’s boundaries. Plans are reviewed by the fire marshal for adherence to fire and panic safety codes.

The California Health and Safety Code establishes a requirement for the district to enforce all of the provisions of the Building Standards Code on all homes in the jurisdiction. The 2001 California Fire Code is Part 9 of the California Building Standards Code, Title 24.

One area of the plan review processes deals with fire department access and water supply, determines the required distance to a fire hydrant capable of providing the required fire flow to the structure. For example: a 3,601-square-foot building with Type-V, light-weight, combustible, non-rated construction, would require a fire-flow of 1,750 gallons per minute for a duration of two hours. The fire hydrant should be located no farther than 250 feet from the property on a through street or 200 feet on a dead end street.

The 2001 California Fire Code, sets the minimum fire flow for one- and two-family dwellings under 3,600 square feet at 1,000 gallons per minute. The code allows for a reduction of 50 percent in the required fire flow for one-and two-family dwellings and up to 75 percent reduction in fire flow for any other building, with the installation of an approved automatic sprinkler system.

If the water distribution system is unable to provide the required fire flow, there are two options for a property developer: The first is for the developer to upgrade the water system’s infrastructure. In most cases this would involve a substantial expenditure and project delay with the required regulatory and environmental approvals needed. The second option is to install an approved automatic sprinkler system throughout the structure.

In the event the property is farther than 250 from the closest hydrant on through streets, or 200 feet on dead end roads, an additional fire hydrant will need to be installed as a condition of development. This is in addition to meeting fire flow requirements.

The California Public Utilities Commission has established that the financial responsibility to upgrade an existing water system is borne by the developer.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, an average of 4,500 people perish in residential structure fires in the United States each year.

Statistically the risks of perishing in a residential structure fire are decreased by 82 percent when a sprinkler system and smoke detectors are in place and operational.

The Lake Valley Fire Protection District will be hosting an informational workshop in the near future. Please contact the Fire District at (530) 577-3737 if you are interested in attending.

– Gareth S. Harris is battalion chief/fire marshal of the Lake Valley Fire District.

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