Lightning Rod Codes: The Fool On The Hill?


Getting struck by lightning: Bad luck or foolishness?

Well, it depends.

Earlier this year, a bolt of lightning killed a guy racing along on his motorcycle. Bad luck. Way bad luck.

On the other hand, a lightning strike also killed a guy who climbed a hill in the middle of a thunderstorm to get better cell phone reception.

Bad luck? Hmm. Not really.

So, if a brand new home in Rim Country gets hit by lightning and burns to the ground — is that bad luck or poor planning?

We’re getting a sinking feeling that it’s more like the fool on the hill than the unlucky soul on the motorcycle.

Every year, lightning destroys several Rim Country homes and sets off dozens of wildfires. Rim Country gets more lightning strikes than almost any other region in the country, thanks to the storms generated by the proximity of the Mogollon Rim to the low-lying Sonoran Desert.

So if you live in Rim Country — you can count on having to cope with both lightning strikes and forest fires.

Surely our building codes take such details into account.

Nope. Not at all.

Neither the county nor the towns in Rim Country require builders to take either lightning or wildfires into account. Although lightning rods can dramatically reduce damage and are affordable in new construction, no one requires them.

By the same token, none of the Rim Country building codes require firewise standards that focus on fire-resistant roofing and easily ignited eves and overhangs.

Instead, we spend millions on a never-ending, often futile effort to push back the forest. Instead, we dispatch fire crews every few months to risk their lives as they try to prevent the flames from a house hit by lightning from spreading throughout the neighborhood.

This makes no sense. Planning departments pile on all kinds of expensive conditions — from setbacks to landscaping — yet neglect standards that will save lives.

Now, it’s true — bad things happen over which you have no control. But then, if you’re going to adopt a short-sighted building code or climb a hill in a thunderstorm — it’s hard to blame the lightning when disaster strikes.


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