Building Coded Division announced a new rule creating a significant code change which became effective January 24, 2019. The rule amends section R327 Wildfire Hazard Mitigation to mandate fire-hardening of structures located in wildfire hazard zones adopted by a local municipality. Wildfire zones can be created in most parts of the state.
The new rules require noncombustible or ignition-resistant materials to be used on a building exterior to improve the chances a building will survive a wildfire. It prohibits wood shake or shingle roofs. Gutters must be designed to keep leaves from entering. Ventilation openings must be screened and traditional vents are prohibited in soffits that are less than twelve feet above the surface below.
Exterior walls must be noncombustible or ignition-resistant material or made of log. Decks, porches and balconies which are more than thirty inches and less than twelve feet above grade or other surface must also be resistant to ignition. The code specifies standards that must be used to determine if a material meets the intent of the code.
The new rule is in effect only where a municipality has an ordinance specifically adopting it. A community must use Oregon Department of Forestry standards that define a wildfire hazard area to determine what properties are covered by the ordinance and must comply with the rule. The rules apply only to new dwellings and accessory structures and reroofing of existing buildings.
It will be important for builders around the state to watch for local efforts to adopt the new rule so they can participate and make sure only properties that truly need wildfire protection are included in the adopted zones. The community should be encouraged to allow the code official to permit variances and establish an appeals process in the adopting ordinance.