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County adopts consolidated Fire Code


Last updated 6/14/2007 at Noon

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors adopted a consolidated Fire Code May 23 which also revised deck construction requirements.

“The consolidated Fire Code will allow for a more uniform code,” said Supervisor Dianne Jacob, adding that a uniform code will allow for consistent enforcement as well as expedited plan checks. “It’s every effort such as this that makes the region safer.”

A fire protection district can adopt an ordinance more stringent than the state Building Standards Code, although the local legislative body (which is the Board of Supervisors for unincorporated areas) must ratify that ordinance in order for it to be effective. In October 2001 the supervisors adopted an ordinance ratifying the first edition of the consolidated Fire Code, and since then each of the 17 fire protection districts in the county has adopted new ordinances which required ratification.

The consolidated Fire Code gives the county’s Department of Land Use (DPLU) a single document rather than 17 separate documents. The adoption of the consolidated Fire Code also incorporated that code into the county’s Building Code.

“We’re happy,” said DPLU fire services coordinator Ralph Steinhoff. “The fire services people that were there were pleased and were appreciative of the comments by the board.”

Other than the consolidation of documents and the inclusion of the new Fire Code into the Building Code, the supervisors also revised the deck construction requirements. In June 2004 the supervisors amended the building and fire codes to add various fire-resistant construction standards. The adoption of the 2004 amendments also led to meetings between DPLU and the decking industry. “As a result of that the decking requirements have been revised and our codes have been brought up to better standards,” Jacob said. “Builders will have a wider variety of choices.”

The new code stipulates testing standards which must be met for decking.

“The Department of Planning and Land Use has provided an invaluable service in updating the fire codes,” Jacob said. “I think all of us learned a valuable lesson in 2003.”

Although the October 2003 wildfires destroyed more than 2,000 homes, most of the houses within the fires’ footprints which had been built since the adoption of the county’s most recent building standards survived the fires. The county had updated building standards on several occasions between the 1996 Harmony Grove Fire and the 2004 response to the previous year’s fires.

Steinhoff noted that the consolidated Fire Code is expected to streamline building permit applications and other plan checks. “It will assist us here at DPLU in providing fire plan checks,” he said. “It will give us consistent enforcement of fire codes throughout the region.”

The 2001 consolidated Fire Code was based on the 1997 Uniform Fire Code, and the 2007 amendments will be the last before work begins on incorporating the International Fire Code into the county’s Fire Code. “This kind of culminates a couple of years’ worth of work on this one,” Steinhoff said.


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