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Draft California Fire Codes Include Wildfire Hazard Tool

Cal Fire
Proposed changes to California's building codes include a wildfire hazard tool that could help planners map out potential hazards such as power lines.

A new wildfire hazard tool developed by a national lab could be integrated into the state of California’s fire codes.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology developed the framework last year as a means of preventing the level of destruction seen during the Camp Fire in the town of Paradise.

That framework is included in the proposed rule changes to California’s building codes for 2022.

The framework calls for developing electronic map layers that emergency responders can pull to assess hazards during a wildfire. Things like power lines, safety zones, hospitals, fuel breaks, and even a map showing where past fires had burned can help them decide where to direct people during mass evacuations.

Engineer Alexander Maranghides says compiling these maps and other essential information can be crucial for out-of-area first responders.

“If they can pull in a layer that shows them where the critical facilities are in terms of hazards in a community,” Maranghides says. “Where the propane depots are, where ammunition is stored, all these things. That’ll give them a much better perspective of a community.”

Maranghides says government planners can also use the framework to develop strategies for mitigating catastrophes during a wildfire.

The public comment period for California’s building code changes is open until Oct. 18th.

April Ehrlich is an editor and reporter at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Previously, she was a news host and reporter at Jefferson Public Radio.