696 Did the reaction to the international fire code surprise you?


Tom Garrett 2 years, 10 months ago

(Written at 6:19 pm on Friday, 7 Mar 2014)

My answer to the question posed by the title of this string is, "No. It's what I expected."

I expected to read these words?

"...with most councilors adamantly against the idea."

Why? Because in the last article I read these words:

"Each council member received a massive binder with the proposed overhaul of every element of the town code, based on a point-by-point analysis of the latest recommended changes of the International Building Code."

"That includes about 184 pages that relate to the fire code."

Can you imagine what 184 pages of detailed fire restrictions dreamed up by some "international" agency might be like?

Once I read those words I knew just what was coming.

Then I read a few of the details, and I was even more sure that code would not be adopted.

What details? These: "The code intended for use in communities facing the danger of wildfires includes things like flame-resistant roofing and building materials, sealed attic ventilation, a ban on flammable, overhanging eaves and porches open to embers on the underside. Such codes also require homeowners to keep vegetation away from houses."

And this didn't help either.

“It’s easier just to adopt the whole thing (the building code), but that could add $15,000 to $35,000 to the cost of a residence,” said Mayor Evans.

“It’s a very, very complex process. Just because (the building advisory board) voted not to adopt the international code didn’t mean they don’t want to do anything.”

That's why I felt the Town Council was bound to turn the international code down.

Now for....

Your comment on how you feel about it.


Susan Daniels 2 years, 10 months ago

Overall, any decision on fire codes should be in the best interest of the area/community, not the additional cost to the home builder. Safety/prevention should be a priority over granite countertops. When I lived in Florida and built a home, we had to adhere to the newest codes to address the possibility of hurricanes hitting the island where I was going to live. Was I put off by the additional expense to address possible disaster should a hurricane hit the island, no. I wanted to live there and the house was built. Wanting to live someplace neat like Payson brings about certain things that should be addressed while building a new residence. Wildfire is paramount in possible disaster for the location, the forest and the town. It's about being proactive in preventing a potential disaster and not about how much more it costs a new homeowner. I think people reviewing these new codes have their priorities messed up.


Pat Randall 2 years, 10 months ago

I would bet that none of the council or the mayor has read 1/2 of the new town codes and even less of the fire code. When I was attending council meetings about 5 yrs. ago I would see members come in pick up the agenda and maybe scan thru it if they weren't visiting with some one. Hadn't read a single thing on it until meeting time. Don't know if the computers have helped but doubt it. I would like to know how the items are on consent before the meetings. Who makes the decisions?


Tom Garrett 2 years, 10 months ago


I read that new fire code. It contains some of the most draconian requirements I have ever seen in my life. For just one thing, it requires copper clad roofing and houses without eaves. If applied only to new homes that would be fine, but you and I both know how new codes are applied around here: You go to make a repair and you find yourself running head on into some numbskull ordinance that makes no sense. So you need a new roof. The code fails to "grandfather" your style of construction. You are out $35,000 to $45,000 (an actual estimate if the code were adopted without change, I checked), and for what? Your house burns down because the city or county didn't cut down the line of trees on THEIR property which brought the fire right to your door.

And before anyone says anything about grandfathering, let me bring to your attention to just one major place where it wasn't done, and yet could have, and should have, been done.

Try getting approval for a septic system built according to the specs allowed virtually anywhere else. Can't be done.

Then swallow hard and pay $30,000 for a above ground monster that will go on costing you forever.

And please don't start talking about "health." If the New England states, where the danger would be greatest because of high levels of population and a high water table, can survive without changes, why can't we?

You know what happens up there when your land doesn't perk? They dig out an area about the size of small swimming pool, fill it with sand, and go from there. Why? If the water from your house runs through 30 inches of sand it is pure enough to drink.

So why don't we do that?

Beats me. Two possibilities arise right away. 1. Ignorance. 2. Greed.

That's why I knew the Town Council would never adopt that code in its entirety. Goes too far. Read string 690. It says a lot more about all this. You'll see that something could be done if it were done sensibly.


Tom Garrett 2 years, 10 months ago

I'll just put it to you this way:

I think you will agree that it takes interested, informed, and caring individuals, and a LOT of time, to think through the changes that a few words in an ordinance concerning fire safety (or almost any other construction area) can create. And I think you will agree that just accepting a code, or any part of a code, without a great deal of careful thought would be an error, true?

I think you will agree that the question was turned over to a group of interested citizens who were asked to study the new code, and the changes it would cause in the building codes for the town, and that they were charged with the responsibility of deciding whether or not they could recommend the adoption of the new code AS IS, or whether they would make an alternate recommendation.

As I understand matters, the people on the committee are people chosen because they have some knowledge in such matters, that they were given plenty of time to study the question, and that they have made what they believed to be the best recommendation. They decided that it would not be wise or proper for the Town Council to accept the new fire code AS IS.

From what is being said, that decision was based on the fact that the fire code is a model, one which lays out a myriad of steps that would be needed to achieve complete fire safety in all possible ways. In other words, the code is a model of perfection. That being the case, a rational decision has to made by someone as to which parts of that code can reasonably be adopted by Payson.

I feel it is wise of the Town Council to have refused to accept in its entirety, hundreds upon hundreds of pages of changes in a new fire safety building code. The Council accepted the well reasoned recommendation of a group of knowledgeable citizens who were chosen to make that recommendation. That seems to be a reasonable move.

The question of which parts of that model of perfection may yet be adopted remains open. The purpose of the new code is to achieve absolute fire safety; the purpose of the town code will no doubt include some portions of that code, achieving a balance which takes into consideration other equally important considerations such as the intrusion of the code into the day-to-day lives of the citizens of Payson, as well as the costs involved.

I am fine with that. How about you?


Barbara Rasmussen 2 years, 10 months ago

I knew that this Town council and Mayor would never adopt any code. That is not their main concern. This Town Council (most of them) and Mayor are not interested in even hearing what the professionals that know the codes and have studied them for years recommendations are. If developers want narrower driveways in developments the wand is waved and it is a done deal! Never mind that fire apparatus can not drive safely into that development. Case in point the loss of the firefighter in the valley that was trapped and crushed between emergency vehicles. And the list goes on and on and on. This is just one for instance. And if the present Town council did accept the Fire Code as is it would be changed immediately suit the first developer that asks!


Pat Randall 2 years, 10 months ago

First they need to read it. I would bet not one of the council or the mayor has read 50 pages of it.


Tom Garrett 2 years, 10 months ago

Well, I have read the code, and I can tell you that I would not adopt it as it stands. As I said it is something written for a perfect world, and is out of touch with reality in many places. Furthermore, it is aimed at the wrong problem. It tries to solve Problem A by working on Problem B. It aims at housing when the target is the forest. In truth, reading through the Payson fire code I would — as an interested amateur — say it was quite good. So I don't see a need for much change. What is going on is that the people who SHOULD be making changes are dragging their feet and trying to place the entire burden on towns and local fire departments.

Sure, it would be wonderful to live in a place where forest fires were not a threat, but the way to eliminate forest fires as a threat it to make sure that when the pine forest burns — which it is going to do no matter what we do — the fire does not spread into towns and cities. That calls for effective fire breaks and the removal of lines of trees leading from the fire-prone forest into the towns. That's all it takes. It does not take any special attention to new construction.

However, WHO would have to act to make towns safe? A. The Forest Service, which acts at times like it would be happy to see us burned out and gotten rid of, and has finally, after decades of doing nothing, finally gotten around to almost getting to, soon, one of these days, maybe, if it ever gets started, some day, to thinning the forest. B. The State and County, which as far I as I can see have not made a single move to remove pines and other conifers from their roadways which run straight from the forests to the towns. C. The fire departments themselves and citizen groups working on fire breaks and other safety moves such as cleaning up fire hazards and volunteering to carry off materials to the burn pits, and there I see GREAT things being done, for which I — for one — am eternally grateful!!!

But this is a three-pronged job and a hay fork with only one prong can't do it all.

Look at it this way, folks: If you lived in a place where there were no pine or conifer forests or dry chaparral shrub land surrounding your town, would you want such an intrusive fire code to be adopted? No, of course not. That's why most of the country has no such code. It's called a "firewise" code, but it ought to be called a "shove it all off of the homeowner code." You do not want it. What you want is for those people who operate the forests and the roads to get to work and do what they are paid to do — serve the people!


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