Fire Code

Fire codes dictate fire prevention and safety measures that complement building codes. For example, while building codes dictate the number, location, and design of egress/exits from buildings, fire codes make sure those exits work as designed and are not blocked.

Although often confused, fire codes and building codes are separate documents that complement one another. Both codes set minimum requirements to safeguard the occupants of a building and to protect the building structure from exposures and hazards. Fire codes dictate fire prevention measures on an ongoing basis, whereas building codes control and integrate fire-safe design into the construction of the building and the fire-protection systems that are installed. Fire code provisions will often reference related building codes.

As it relates to wildfire, fire codes regulate access roads, emergency exits, water supply, emergency planning and preparedness, and fire protection systems, in addition to the accumulation of combustible material and the storage and use of hazardous materials. If a community lacks any other form of wildfire mitigation measures, an adopted fire code can provide important public safety requirements in the event of a wildfire. In some jurisdictions, a WUI chapter may be included within the fire code, making it even more robust.

Fire codes are administered by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), which is usually the fire marshal, but can also pertain to the building official or a private consultant.

Two main fire codes are available: The International Fire Code written by the International Code Council, and the NFPA 1 Fire Code written by the National Fire Protection Association. Both documents address egress/exits and fire protection systems, and both are voluntary and consensus-based. This means that their implementation and enforcement are voluntarily adopted by states and local jurisdictions, and that their requirements are developed, written, published, and agreed upon by committees. The codes must be adopted through a legislative process to be enforceable.