The Washington Fire Department expressed interest in contributing to the conversation on affordable housing in Washington.

A letter was submitted to the Washington Planning and Zoning Commission from Fire Chief Bill Halmich Monday night.

The letter states:

“I, as well as other chief officers, were surprised to receive inquiries following the recent planning and zoning meeting regarding street widths and their impact on ‘affordable housing.’

“This far-reaching public safety topic, which (affects) fire protection, EMS and police, should be formally reviewed by the Fire Prevention Committee and chief officers prior to any change, and other stakeholders.

“As a matter of fact, this group, just completed a lengthy review of the Fire Prevention Codes and made recommendations to the Citizen Code Committee for their review, comment and adoption.

“I know, I, nor none of my current staff, have taken a position approving the reduction of street widths from current standards.

“As a matter of fact, we do not know what the Coalition for Affordable Housing is proposing exactly, but we do believe ‘that what we can live with,’ is what the occupants will live with.”

Deputy Speaks

During the meeting, Tim Frankenberg, deputy fire chief and fire marshal, addressed the commission about separation between homes.

Frankenberg said when buildings are closer together, the ISO (Insurance Service Office) rating is directly impacted.

“As you put buildings closer together it takes more water to put out a fire in a particular building like that, because you have an exposure issue with the neighboring building,” he said.

When homes are closer together, the fire flow requirement is 1,500 gallons per minute, which is the current requirement for commercial districts, he said.

“The impact of that for developers is larger water main sizes,” he said. “It’s something to be very cognizant of, because if we don’t have the fire flow requirements that are necessary, that would have a direct impact on ISO, which would have a direct impact on insurance rates.”

The 2009 edition of the International Residential Building Code was adopted by Washington late last year, Frankenberg said. A section within it requires separation.

“As you start encroaching on the separation on the lot line, you have to start putting fire-resistant construction on those overhangs, whether it’s a single-story or a two-story dwelling,” he said.

Frankenberg questioned the cost of the impact of complying with the building code and how it will affect fire flows, water main sizes and ultimately the ISO rating.

“We would like to have a say in things that are discussed in planning and zoning,” he said. “We’ve always been very active and this is one of the issues that will be very near and dear to our hearts.”