Bill Johnston: Grasping newly adopted fire code

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The Craig Rural Fire Protection District has put a great deal of time and effort into the topic of adopting a uniform fire code. The district made important strides toward the safety of fire district residents, business owners and firefighters at its regularly scheduled August board meeting, where the 2006 International Fire Code was adopted effective immediately.

The 2006 International Fire Code will serve as a benchmark for the quality of building fire safety measured in the fire district.

We anticipate that the adoption of the fire code will raise immediate concerns for those who could be impacted by enforcement of the code. It is critical for the public to have an understanding of the philosophy behind the adoption of the code and, more importantly, to understand the implications of the adoption of the fire code.

At this time, Craig Fire/Rescue does not have the manpower or the desire to create a fire marshal position or to conduct routine investigations of structures. Fire inspections of existing properties will continue to be at the request of the property owner or manager and by complaint. It is the responsibility of all property owners to ensure that basic safety guidelines are followed and that structures meet the appropriate codes.

Craig Fire/Rescue firefighters currently conduct fire inspections upon request, and that service will continue for a nominal fee. Basic life safety items such as location and utilization of smoke/fire detectors, placement of fire extinguishers, signs of obvious electrical or other fire hazards, proper egress, etc., are reviewed, and recommendations are made as to how to improve the overall fire safety of the structure.

By state statute, the fire chief who has already had the authority of jurisdiction could, at any time, enforce fire code violations and assess fines and require corrective action. The adoption of the fire code formalizes the process and the guidelines by which firefighters will operate when conducting fire inspections.

The IFC is designed to work harmoniously with the International Building Code and all other International Codes. The IFC also has a clearly defined scope, which allows it to work well with other building codes and not to present a conflicting relationship with other building codes. Finally, the IFC allows for "grandfathering" existing buildings without the need for further alterations so long as the building and its occupants comply with reasonable fire prevention provisions and extraordinary fire risks are mitigated.

To summarize, fire district residents should not expect immediate noticeable differences in fire code enforcement. What businesses will notice is a change to a fee-based fire inspection service to cover the cost of firefighters or district personnel who must take time off from their regular employment to conduct a fire inspection.

The fee for a fire inspection will be $50 per hour; reinspections will be $50 per hour and plan reviews will be conducted at $50 per hour.

For more information about the fire codes, call Chief Bill Johnston at 824-5914 or Fire Board President Byron Willems at 824-2248.

Bill Johnston is the fire chief in Craig.

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