Years of experience by the California fire service have led to a new strategy for reducing the chance of building loss or damage due to wildfire, with new regulations that are now mandatory within the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). It is a two-pronged approach – providing defensible space and constructing a more ignition-resistant structure.
EXTERIOR WILDFIRE EXPOSURE PROTECTION:
Buildings are now required to be constructed so that they have less chance of catching fire from burning embers from wildfires. Most of the highest wildfire losses take place during hot, windy days or nights when flames spread so fast that many buildings catch fire and overwhelm available firefighting forces. Many buildings ignite when burning embers land on wood roofs, blow in through vents, pile up in cracks, or become lodged under boards. By constructing buildings in a way that reduces the ability of embers to intrude, a major cause of structure ignition is reduced.
Recently adopted building codes reduce the risk of burning embers igniting buildings. Standards are already in effect for roofs, attic vents, siding, exterior doors, decking, windows, eaves, wall vents and enclosed overhanging decks.
Government Code Sections 51175-51189
General Guidelines for Creating Defensible Space
Building Materials Listings and Manufacturning Process
***NEW WUI PRODUCTS HANDBOOK***
Homeowner's Summary of Fire Prevention Laws
http://www.woodsidefire.org/components/com_jce/editor/tiny_mce/plugins/anchor/img/anchor.gif);">What You Need To Know About California’s New Building Codes
Protecting a building from wildfire takes a two-pronged approach:
The law requires that homeowners do fuel modification to 100 feet (or the property line) around their buildings to create a defensible space for firefighters and to protect their homes from wildfires.
New building codes will protect buildings from being ignited by flying embers which can travel as much as a mile away from the wildfire. The following ignition-resistant standards are designed to prevent embers from igniting a building:
The Office of the State Fire Marshal's (SFM) Building Materials Listing Program (BML) was originally created to mandate that all fire alarm systems and fire alarm devices be approved and listed by the State Fire Marshal prior to sale or marketing within the state. The program later was expanded to include many other materials such as: roof coverings, fire resistive wall and ceiling-floor assemblies, wall finish materials, fire and non-fire related hardware, insulating products, fire doors, fire dampers, electrical appliances and devices. Each product approval and listing is based upon an evaluation of test results that include an analysis of required product performance and reliability features. All manufacturers that want to list products in California must have those products tested and labeled by a SFM accredited laboratory. If a product does not qualify for listing but meets the standard of the “Materials and Construction Methods for Exterior Wildfire Exposure,” Chapter 7A of the California Building Code will be listed in the WUI Product Handbook.
The new building standard for the Fire Hazard Severity Zones will be enforced by the Building Official as projects go through the plan checking process. To best assist them in determining if a product meets the code requirements, the State Fire Marshal's BML Program is accepting applications for materials that meet the new code. These materials will be listed on the SFM BML website and the Wildland Urban Interface Building Codes page of the Wildland Hazards and Building Codes website section. The SFM listing service provides building authorities, architectural and engineering communities, contractors, and the fire service with a reliable and readily available source of information.
Since the materials under Wildland Urban Interface Building Codes (except wood shakes and shingles) are not required by law to be listed by the SFM, the listing for these products are strictly voluntary. Materials not listed by the SFM may still qualify for use provided they met all the requirements under Chapter 7A. If not listed on the SFM site, all documentation and testing certificates showing compliance must be submitted to the building official having jurisdiction for final approval.
On September 20, 2007 the Building Standards Commission approved the Office of the State Fire Marshal’s emergency regulations amending the California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 24, Part 2, known as the 2007 California Building Code (CBC).
“701A.3.2 New Buildings Located in Any Fire Hazard Severity Zone.
New buildings located in any Fire Hazard Severity Zone within State Responsibility Areas, any Local Agency Very-High Fire Hazard Severity Zone, or any Wildland-Urban Interface Fire Area designated by the enforcing agency for which an application for a building permit is submitted on or after January 1, 2008, shall comply with all sections of this chapter. New buildings located in any Fire Hazard Severity Zone shall comply with one of the following:
1. State Responsibility Areas.New buildings located in any Fire Hazard Severity Zone within State Responsibility Areas, for which an application for a building permit is submitted on or after January 1, 2008, shall comply with all sections of this chapter.
2. Local Agency Very-High Fire Hazard Severity Zone.New buildings located in any Local Agency Very-High Fire Hazard Severity Zone for which an application for a building permit is submitted on or after July 1, 2008, shall comply with all sections of this chapter.
3. Wildland-Urban Interface Fire Area designated by the enforcing agency.New buildings located in any Wildland-Urban Interface Fire Area designated by the enforcing agency for which an application for a building permit is submitted on or after January 1, 2008, shall comply with all sections of this chapter.
Information Bulletins” and formal state building standards “Code Interpretations” pertaining to wildfire protection building codes are available from the Office of the State Fire Marshal.
Project specific questions should be addressed by the agency having jurisdiction of the project. They may have more restrictive requirements in local ordinances.
New Building Standards have been adopted for areas within local jurisdiction Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones and in the State Responsibility Areas (SRA). Phase I of the standards are already in effect. Phase II standards will go into effect January 1, 2008.