Fire-preventing building codes go into effect

July 3, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
California has already seen how high winds can help embers hopscotch through neighborhoods and spread wildfires quickly, but new state building codes that went into effect this week could help lessen the devestation.

All new homes built in fire-prone areas must now include ignition-resistant materials - materials on which an ember would take at least 20 minutes to develop into a fire.

Siding and decks must also meet the most recent fire-resistant standards.

The idea is to buy firefighters time by slowing the spread of the fire. It also gives homeowners a few more precious moments to escape.

"Any method that we can use to reduce loss, to reduce the potential life loss as well as property loss, we beilieve is important," Assistant State Fire Marshall Tonya Hoover said.

Given that a new home has not been yet completed under the new requirements, it is unclear how much more the new codes will add to the cost. The state estimates, on average, the price will jump $1,800.

The Oaks family just bought a brand new home in an area the state considers a high fire danger. It was built before the new codes took effect, but the house does include some ignition-resistant materials.

"I'm a parent of two 9-year-old daughters and feel very safe knowing we're in a safe home, that they can sleep at night, knowing we can get out if we need to - we have some time to get out of the house if necessary," Wendy Oaks said.

Local planning departments will deny building permits if the new homes don't meet the fire codes.

MAP: Google Reference Map of California Fires
(From the Governor's Office of Emergency Services).


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