How better building codes can mitigate wildfires’ devastation

Source(s): Governing

By Ruben Grijalva


Building and fire departments have a responsibility to their communities to ensure that new and existing structures in a WUI [Wildland Urban Interface zone] are protected against wildfires. One of the best ways to accomplish this is through adoption and enforcement of rigorous building codes and standards, including the International Code Council's International Wildland Urban Interface Code (IWUIC).


Wildfire construction and property maintenance standards should be a co-equal consideration. While communities can reduce the frequency and severity of wildfires through forest management and fire suppression activities, if rigorous wildland fire codes and standards are not adopted and enforced by communities already within the WUI — as well as those being subsumed by it due to climate change or improved hazard mapping — lives and property remain at greater risk.


The National Institute of Building Sciences recently found that adopting the 2015 edition of the IWUIC in 10,000 census blocks across the country would generate $4 in wildfire mitigation savings for every $1 invested — benefits that represent avoided casualties, property damage, business interruptions, and insurance costs and are enjoyed by all building stakeholders including developers, title-holders, lenders, tenants and communities. And according to the institute, retrofitting 2.5 million homes to the 2018 IWUIC could provide a nationwide benefit-cost ratio as high as $8 to $1.


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