West Virginia adopts fire code

Thursday, May 18, 2006

CHARLESTON, W.Va.--A slight increase in the square footage that commercial buildings are allowed to have before they must have sprinklers installed is the one change that West Virginia made when it recently adopted the 2003 versions of the National Fire Protection Association Uniform Fire Code (NFPA 1) and NFPA 101, the Life Safety Code.
"We are definitely advocates for sprinkler systems," said State Fire Marshal Sterling Lewis. The increase in square footage is minimal, he said, roughly 2,000 square feet. Fire officials decided to up the allowable square footage because some buildings were just barely over the maximum, and the fire commission wanted to allow them to address the fire safety issue in another way, such as an additional exit.
The new codes, effective this week, were recommended for approval by the state's 13-member State Fire Commission and adopted by the West Virginia Legislature this winter.
While this set of codes is new, West Virginia has been an "NFPA state for more than 20 years," Lewis said. The state relies on a group of assistant fire marshals for code enforcement. The assistant fire marshals and local code officials attended NFPA training to stay up-to-date on changes. The NFPA provides the training free of charge to jurisdictions soon after they adopt codes.
The codes are used in municipalities all 50 states. Including West Virginia, 39 states have adopted NFPA 101 on a statewide basis. The NFPA will soon turn its attention to the 2006 versions of the codes, said Gary Keith, vice president of regional operations.
"Jurisdictions are starting to look at it and will start the review process. Over the coming months, we'll see other jurisdictions move to the 2006 codes," Keith said.