County supervisors vote for stricter building codes for wildfire protection

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SAN DIEGO — The Board of Supervisors signed off Wednesday on stricter building requirements to lessen wildfire damage.

The vote was 5-0 in favor of the ordinance, which requires:

  • Improved construction of roofs, foundations and gabled-door vents to reduce the potential for embers to enter vents and ignite a fire, estimated to cost an additional $300 for a 2,400-square-foot home
  • That eave vents remained closed, with no additional costs to the homeowner
  • Flame- and ember-resistant (or treated) exterior walls.

The ordinance was introduced during the board’s Jan. 15 meeting. Supervisors Jim Desmond and Dianne Jacob proposed the changes to the building codes, which Jacob said will make the county “a model for fire protection” in California and save lives.

Two major blazes in San Diego, in 2003 and 2007, took the lives of 17 people and numerous animals, and caused billions of dollars in damage.

Last March, the board directed Chief Administrative Officer Helen Robbins-Meyer to develop a plan that would strengthen wildfire resiliency in new homes in moderate- to high-fire areas in the unincorporated communities.

County staffers also informed the Building Industry Association, County Building Innovation Group, community planning groups and environmental stakeholders about the proposed changes.

Previous building code changes included automatic fire sprinkler system installations, more defensible space and ignition-resistant construction materials.

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