Planning board reviews county code for fire flow
|Firecrews subdue a cabin fire on Scofield Reservoir with nearby water. Fire flow is important when fire fighters are dealing with a large fire in a structure. In rural and mountain areas, fire fighters can sometimes find water in lakes and streams, like they for the cabin fire. However, water is often not available and they must use what is on their trucks. The county is looking to pass a code to require that new developments have hydrants with adequate flow to fight fires in the area where they are located. |
Questions about how developments should be set up for fire protection have, in recent months, precipitated thoughts about revising the county code regarding the amount of water that could be supplied in an area should a blaze occur.
"National standards say that codes should require 1,000 gallons of flow per minute (GPM)," explained county planning and zoning director Dave Levanger. "However, I doubt that many places in rural Utah can supply that. I talked with Phil Palmer (Price River Water Improvement District manager) about this and he told me that is not achievable anywhere in Carbon County."
Levanger indicated that the planning and zoning department had met with local fire chiefs and fire marshals about the situation.
Of concern for most officials and county residents is the flow required in the past for mountain and rural developments.
"At present, there is no real standard in our county," pointed out Levanger at the last county planning and zoning board meeting. "According to everything I have seen from the state, it is the county's responsibility to adopt such a measure."
Levanger provided planning board members with a document highlighting several issues in fire flow codes and how the matters relate to communities.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, fire deaths in America dropped from 35.8 per million in 1977 to 12.7 per million in 1999. The decrease in fatalities may be due partially to building code requirements for smoke detectors.
By law, fire departments are immune from liability while furnishing protection outside territorial limits when under contract. Carbon government contracts for all of the county's fire protection with local municipalities.
Appendix B of the International Fire Code requires 1,000 GPM.
A 50 percent reduction is allowed when an automatic fire sprinkling system is installed in a building.
The fire chief (county) is authorized to reduce fire flow requirements for rural areas or small communities where full flow is impractical.
The Utah Department of Environmental Quality requires a minimum of 20 psi at peak instantaneous flow.
The International Residential Code requires a minimum of 40 psi.
Currently in the Scofield Lake, Pleasant Valley, recreation, forestry and mining, mining and grazing, mountain range and water shed zones, the county guideline allows the construction of dwellings on one-half to 40 acres with no fire protection.
In 1997, the county required that Aspen Cove homes be built with a freezeless or yard hydrant within 30 feet of each dwelling.
At the time, the planning board and county commission determined that a 200 GPM level was appropriate for the Aspen Cove development project.
The Urban/Wildlands Interface Code recommends that brush, trees and natural fuel sources be cleared at least 30 feet from each dwelling or cabin.
Utah will require adoption of the code in 2004 in order for local entities to be eligible for state fire fighting funds.
Following the presentation, Levanger introduced the proposed fire flow code revision to the county planning board.
The revision grouped certain kinds of properties, allowing for different flows depending primarily on zoning designations.
The proposal specified that the minimum standards for subdivisions, recreation vehicle courts, hotels, motels, apartments, shopping centers, condominiums, factory built housing parks and industrial developments within PRWID's boundary shall have a minimum flow of 500 GPM.
For locations outside municipal coverage areas, the revision proposed 200 GPM.
"I am a little concerned about the grouping of hotels and houses in the same gallonage parameters," commented Price Fire Chief Kent Boyack. "Fire codes are always set for the worst case scenario. We need to be concerned about how much water would be needed if every sprinkler head in a building were going off at once."
Boyack said Price also plans to adopt new rules for flow, but the county faces different problems because of geographic and elevation concerns.
"Actually, things are a lot better in the county now than they have ever been," said Boyack. "There are hydrants in many parts of the county where there used to be none. For instance, we used to go to Miller Creek to fight a fire and had to look for a canal or cistern to pull water from. Not anymore."
Planning board member Bob Welch recommended that the county get a written record of what PRWID can provide.
Levanger agreed to look at the suggestions and, along with the department's staff, develop a new proposal.
In an unrelated matter, the board addressed a request for a conditional use permit to allow ConocoPhillips to drill and operate a gas well on private property located at about 3000 South near Utah Highway 10.
"The location is zoned industrial now and that allows for a well with special approval," noted Jean Semborski, company representative. "The well will have a progressive cavity pump to extract gas and it will also have an insulated building over it."
Board member Lynna Topolovec pointed out that the well was less than a quarter of a mile from a home and closer to potential residences.
"Right now, the closest home is 1,050 feet from where the well will be," replied Semborski. "With the type of pump we will use and the building, it would be very hard to hear from that distance. And if others want to build closer to it, they should pick up on the fact it is there."
The ConocoPhillips representative also pointed out that previous tests of other wells in Carbon County indicated all sounds from the facilities were lost within the environmental noise at the 1500 foot mark.
The commission voted to grant the conditional use permit.