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Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
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Department of Housing and Community Development
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Board of Housing and Community Development
chapter
Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code [13 VAC 5 ‑ 51]
Action Update the Statewide Fire Prevention Code
Stage Final
Comment Period Ends 6/29/2018
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6/12/18  10:23 am
Commenter: Anthony McDowell, president, Va Fire Chiefs Assoc

Fire Prevention Code edits
 

Dear Chairman Ainslie:

 

Thank you for the opportunity to participate in the regulatory process. I write to you today in my capacity as President of the Virginia Fire Chiefs Association (VFCA.) The VFCA is comprised of more than 600 members with its sole mission to serve the communities of Virginia through its fire service leaders and advance the fire and rescue service through leadership, education and advocacy.

 

We appreciate the ability to share our ongoing concerns about changes to the Statewide Fire Prevention Code, specifically as it relates to a “rewrite” of the code.

 

The Commonwealth of Virginia adopts a nationally-recognized model code, which itself is the result of a well-established, nationally- accepted, consensus code development process with broad stakeholder input. The detailed, technical nature of this process requires careful and deliberate effort to ensure each word, each sentence, and each chapter of the code is carefully vetted from a legal and functional standpoint, and is consistent with all referenced standards and codes. Fire officials who enforce this code rely on the document to be absolutely technically correct, so that it will stand up to legal scrutiny. Because of this long-standing process, we did not feel that there was a need to essentially rewrite the code in Virginia.

 

Despite this belief, over the past two years, the fire service has been happy to work with the members of the BHCD workgroup 2, which consisted of both fire service and building code official contingencies, to find much consensus in re-writing Chapters 1-10. Although all members did not agree on all changes to these ten chapters, after several months of meetings, there was a final compromise document produced that everyone could agree to and that maintained the integrity of the Statewide Fire Prevention Code. Unfortunately, this document was not adopted by the Board as a whole, and additional, non-consensus items were added after the work of the group was completed. These new changes were problematic as they include both known and yet-to-be discovered technical flaws, mismatched references, and inconsistencies.  We are submitting specific examples (these examples are offered in two additional letters, due to limitations on allowable word count in one document during public comments). 

 

Furthermore, work group 2 was not able to complete the process of finding consensus for the remaining chapters in the allotted time.

 

The non-consensus items in chapters 1-10 and the remaining chapters were not reviewed in total by stakeholders, workgroups, or the Board at large before the vote was taken.

 

In summary, we believe the Statewide Fire Prevention Code as presented in the Final Regulations will create confusion due to conflicts created, result in significant local amendments and variation from a statewide regulation, and lessen safety for Virginia communities and firefighters alike.  As a result of these and other concerns, no statewide fire service organization in the Commonwealth supports these changes. In fact, every statewide fire organization stands strongly in opposition to these changes as written. 

 

Therefore, pursuant to the Code of Virginia, Sec. 2.2-4007.06, in order to provide additional time for comment, discussion and hopefully amendments, we are formally petitioning the Board of Housing and Community Development to reconsider their approval from the October 2017 meeting of the Statewide Fire Prevention Code published on April 30, 2018 in the Register of Regulations. We would respectfully ask that the Board reconsider their approval of those sections and allow only the consensus document created by workgroup 2 that consists of Chapters 1-10 be adopted, and that all other provisions that were removed in the subsequent chapters and sections be reinserted to allow time for consensus to be reached in the next code cycle. If the Board still feels that a total rewrite during this code cycle is necessary, we would respectfully request additional time to allow the stakeholder review process to finish its consensus work which will ensure a workable Statewide Fire Prevention Code that will protect all the citizens of the Commonwealth.

 

Should the 2015 Statewide Fire Prevention Code be adopted, the Virginia Fire Chiefs Association believes, at a minimum, the Board should consider the following amendments:

 

  • Item F-107.2(2) Dawson/Dean – Reactive and exploding targets

  • Item F-107.2(2) Dawson/Dean – Mobile food cooking operations

  • Item F-107.11 Sites – State FM Inspection fees

  • Item F-112.5 Andrews – Appeals application activities

  • Item F-301.3 Milliken – Certificate of occupancy requests

  • Item F-507.5.1 Toalson – Water supplies for infill developments

  • Item F-609.3.3.1 Mullens – Commercial hood system tags

  • Item F-703.1(2) Dawson – Exception to visual inspection of rated assemblies

  • Item F-703.4 Dawson – Testing of opening protectives

  • Item F-1030.1 Milliken – Emergency escape and rescue openings in R-4 use groups. NOTE – This approved change was voided by the SFPC re-write provisions which are being challenged.

  • Item F-3103.2 Milliken – Tent clarification

  • Item F-3501.2 Dean – Permit notation correction

  • Item F-5605.1 Sites – Reference standards for manufacture of blasting agents

  • Item F-5706.1.1 Dawson – Mobile fueling operations

  • Item F-6701.2 Dean – Permit notation correction

 

Because of the word limit allowed in posting public comments, we are submitted two separate letters that provide specific examples of the problems associated with the Final Regulations as approved.  These examples do not constitute a comprehensive assessment of the full document, but rather provide a sample of the most egregious and concerning issues in the Statewide Fire Prevention Code as proposed.

 

 

Sincerely,

Anthony E. McDowell

VFCA President