IAFF Representative Sean DeCrane and other IAFF members spent the second day of hearings where a number of items impacting the fire fighters work environment occurred.
The Fire Safety Committee for the Building Code heard the debate on twenty-five code change proposals based on the fire performance of foam insulation products. This demonstrates how prevalent this material has become within the built environment, this achieves a low flame spread rating because it is tested in a horizontal application but most times it is applied vertically. The IAFF attempted to require more stringent testing in the exterior application of foam beneath vinyl siding.
Industry representatives had a large presence to argue against the test procedures and the committee voted the proposal down. But there was progress made as a number of representatives from the building industry, construction industry, testing laboratories and other representatives proposed forming a working committee to address the problem of rapid exterior fire growth entering the attic spaces. This is an issue dealing with our member’s ability to respond and handle the large fire and it has also led to a number of fire fighter injuries and in some cases fatalities. The work group will represent the multi-family industry, the testing labs and fire service members. This issue impacts both multi-family occupancies and single family homes where the exterior fires have directly led to fire fighter fatalities.
Another large issue is the lack of accurate and solid data when it comes to the fire experience of the fire service. Many of the problems deal with the lack of data collection from the NFIRS system and some of the issues relate to the quality of data collected in the field. While the IAFF has worked to revise the data collected by NFIRS. our members can work on the quality of the data collected. This will assist us in a number of areas but it will give us better ammunition when industry attempts to reduce the fire protection in buildings where our members operate.
A couple of proposals that could have impacted our members included proposals to reduce the structural fire protection including allowing fire curtains into the code for protection of open shaft ways, escalators and atriums. These curtains can only pass a modified testing process that removes the performance of load carrying in the structural members. These could potential place our members in harms way and the proposals were unsuccessful. As an example of new items or issues that are debated there were two proposals that would have permitted buildings built of bales of hay up to 35 feet. These buildings can not pass a fire test, the ASTM E 119, that tests structural stability.
While there are around 300 of these buildings in the United States they tend to be very rural areas and in specific regions with a individual review by the code authorities in the jurisdictions. By placing it into the body of the code we would have permitted these structures to be built with no structural performance or fire performance requirements. While there may be a place for these structures it could challenge the fire service on our responses if they are involved in fire, especially if they are in a concentrated area.
We will provide additional information as these hearing go forward.