Adoption of the 2012 International Fire Code
Sunshine Fire Protection District Fire MarshalIn April 2015, the Board of County Commissioners adopted and signed the Commissioners' resolution approving the Sunshine Fire Protection District's (SFPD) adoption of the 2012 International Fire Code (IFC). This simple statement does not give justice to the hard work over a number of months by the Sunshine Board to agree on the adoption language.
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Why, then, all of the effort to adopt a fire code?
The Sunshine Fire Protection District is a 'special tax district' for funding our operations but, prior to the Code's adoption by the SFPD, we had no authority to regulate many fire safety conditions of particular interest to our District residents. For these things we needed to rely on, and defer to, the County. For the most part, we have had an amicable relationship with County fire code officials, i.e., those who have some jurisdiction over our District. By far, our primary interactions with the County on code issues dealt with site plan review considerations such as driveway standards (including turnarounds, road grade and so on), water supplies and defensible space. Generally, we have been able to come to an agreement with the County on specifications but we had no enforcement capability if builders failed to carry through with the agreement or the County altered its requirements. The Fire code gives us enforcement capability. Additionally, the District now has the ability to enforce general safety provisions and we have authority over fire service features (e.g., fire apparatus access roads, water supplies, etc.) for which we previously had no control. For example, several years ago, we were alerted to a property with several hundred feet of electrical cord connecting several outbuildings while running through dried grass and across access drives. Although this was clearly a dangerous situation for fire ignition, we did not have the direct authority to require the owners to remove the wiring. Our only path was to get the County involved. The Fire Code now gives us the authority to directly mitigate such potentially dangerous situations.
Links to the fire code:
Sunshine FPD Fire Code adoption
Sunshine FPD Exhibits and Amendments 2015
2012 International Fire Code
What are the general provisions of the 2012 International Fire Code?
First and foremost, the IFC describes the relationship between the Fire Department (i.e., the SFPD), the Fire Code Official, who is its representative, and those things and activities within the special tax District that are of interest to us for safety concerns. This is the 'Scope and Administration' portion of the code. It describes how we should conduct 'business' with respect to the above including the issuance of permits, requirements for documentation from builders, the issuance of fines and a procedure for appealing decisions made by the code official. Other 'general' sections include 'Fire Service Features' (e.g., requirements on premises identification, water tank installation for firefighting and emergency responder radio coverage), General Safety Requirements and Building Services and Systems. Because we have no commercial structures in our District some of the Fire Code requirements are moot at this time.
Another important section is 'Fire Protection Systems':
As many of you may know, new residences that are constructed are required by the Boulder County Building Code to have residential fire suppression systems installed. The adopted code includes provisions for fire department (FD) connections (i.e., the ability to connect a fire engine to the residential sprinkler system) and interior and exterior alarm notifications should a fire sprinkler activate. We have been recommending the FD connections and notification systems but now, with the passage of the fire code, we can require them to be put into place in new construction.
For the most part, the adopted 2012 International Fire Code will have little direct impact on currently-established residences. However, there are four operations that will now require a permit:
1) LP gas tanks (a single tank or in aggregate) that exceed 1,000 gallons of water capacity (how the volume of the tanks is determined);
2) any open burning, including campfires on private land;
3) the removal of private firefighting cisterns from 'service'; and
4) temporary membrane structures and tents having an area in excess of 400 sq. ft. Two of these permitting requirements need some additional explanations:
Subsection 105.6.30 of the 2012 IFC was amended to read as follows: 'A current operational burn permit from Boulder County is required for the kindling or maintaining of an open fire or a fire on any public street, alley, road or other public or private ground. The permit must be provided to the code official of the District before burning commences and notification of the burn must be provided to the code official the day before or day of the intended burn. Notifications, instructions and stipulations of the burn permit and those of the District shall be adhered to.' This section of the IFC was amended to include recreational fires in the permitting process. Although the County does not require a burn permit for recreational fires, we (the Sunshine fire Protection District) do. Why is this the case? Campfires or other recreational fires have an exceptional potential for fire ignition. Furthermore, District residents are highly attuned to wildfire potential and the smell of smoke. As a consequence, we are often called out to investigate reports of smoke and, if it is a purposely-set fire, we want to know, whether it's for burning slash or roasting marshmallows. If you desire to have a recreational fire, the Fire Code Official of the District will inspect the proposed burn site and issue a permit. You need to notify both Boulder County Communications and the Fire District of the date and time of your fire. You must also heed all restrictions specified by the open burn permit.
Private fire hydrants:
Subsection 105.6.35 of the 2012 IFC. If you have a cistern for fire suppression that was required as part of the site plan review process, that cistern is expected to remain in service (e.g., in good working order, full of water with no modifications to vehicle access) in perpetuity. We are establishing a program for yearly inspections of the cisterns to make sure that they are in service. We rely on these water supplies when making tactical decisions regarding firefighting operations and, as such, they mist remain available to us. If a cistern is to be removed temporarily from service for repairs or other circumstances, you must get a permit from the District. Part of the conditions of the permit is an agreed-upon specific time at which the cistern will be returned to service.
In addition, three activities explicitly require construction permits:
1) automatic fire-extinguishing (e.g., sprinkler) systems;
2) emergency responder radio coverage systems;
3) temporary membrane structures and tents having an area in excess of 400 sq. ft.
The adoption of the 2012 International Fire Code by the District was based on the belief that it will help us make Sunshine a safer place to live and visit. If you have any questions, please e-mail me at bdhoneyman(at)gmail.com.