New Fire Code
Reps from the Montecito Fire Protection District were in front of Montecito Planning Commission last week outlining recent amendments to the District’s Fire Code. Fire Marshal & Battalion Chief Aaron Briner outlined the changes, which include changes to access road width and design, fire sprinklers requirements, emergency power systems, and more.
Every three years, the California Fire Code is amended and adopted. The 2016 California Fire Code was superseded by the 2019 version and became State law on January 1, 2020. On December 23, 2019, the Montecito Fire Protection District Board of Directors formally adopted Ordinance 2019-02, making amendments to the California Fire Code, California Residential Code, and California Building Code creating the Montecito Fire Protection District Fire Code. Briner explained that it was a collaborative effort between fire prevention officers of Montecito, Santa Barbara County, Santa Barbara City, and Carpinteria-Summerland, who met and attempted to determine where agency amendments could be standardized. “The goal behind the 2019 amendments for Montecito was simplification, consistency, and collaboration with surrounding agencies,” he said.
There were 17 amendments to the Montecito Fire Code, with four being the most significant. Road access requirements were amended to account for more dwelling units on parcels, which increase the number of lives that would need to be saved in an emergency. Fire access roads are required to be 14-feet wide for a single parcel or dwelling unit, and 16-feet wide for two to four parcels or dwelling units, among other requirements.
Fire sprinklers are required for new homes, while alterations and additions to homes are more complicated situations, Briner said. The new code simplifies the calculation in which sprinklers are required; if the home is altered 50% or more of the existing gross square footage, or the addition causes the home to reach 1500 sq. ft., the home will require sprinklers.
Briner also discussed emergency and standby power systems, as many homeowners are opting for battery backups versus generators. “This is an area that we are going to continue to keep an eye on over the year to continue to make changes,” he said.
Lastly, Briner explained the new code has stronger language related to explosives and fireworks: all are prohibited within the District.
As part of the revised code, MFPD created development standards to help planners, architects, and homeowners in understanding and applying the code. Those standards, which outline roofing assembly, vegetation management (defensible space), fire department access, water supply, water storage, fire sprinklers for residential and commercial, and post disaster rebuilds, are available on the District’s website.
“We were able to simplify our code and make it more consistent with surrounding agencies, ensuring that the residents of Montecito have a code that best serves the community.” Briner said.
Also happening at the District: earlier this month MFPD launched an interactive Story Map to highlight the Department’s Wildland Fire Prevention Program. Story Maps combine text, images, multimedia, and interactive maps to create an engaging online experience. This new Story Map provides a unique opportunity to exhibit the importance of the Montecito Fire Department’s numerous wildfire mitigation projects and give a voice to the programs that continue to strengthen our community’s resilience to wildfire.
The Story Map, as well as the new fire code ordinance and development standards, are available on the District’s website at www.montecitofire.com.