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Ashland wildfire hazard mitigation building code in effect

file photoThe city of Ashland may elect to adopt Oregon Residential Specialty Code 327.4, which bumped construction standards for wildfire hazard mitigation.

ASHLAND — As of Oct. 1, all new residential structures in Ashland are subject to wildfire hazard mitigation building standards, and a Wildfire Mitigation Plan must be submitted with each building permit application, showing that requirements will be met for roofing, vents, rain gutters and exterior wall coverings.

Ashland adopted section 327.4 June 1, focused on best practices for ignition-resistant building. Ashland was the second community in the state to adopt a wildfire hazard mitigation code for new residential construction, according to building official Steven Matiaco, behind Medford’s adoption of the code in October of 2019.

“The intent of these requirements is to provide minimum standards that reduce or eliminate ignition potential by using exterior products that resist ignition and protect specific vulnerable areas including rain gutters, roofing ventilation, exterior walls, and eaves from ember ignition threat,” according to the city.

On Jan. 24, 2019, the Oregon Building Codes Division amended the state’s residential specialty code section, allowing municipalities to opt in. Adoption of the code represented the final piece of Ashland’s comprehensive fire adapted strategy, according to the city.

During a Q&A Zoom session held Thursday by the city building division , Matiaco said decks and other building projections are expected to present the greatest challenge for builders under the new code as far as design and cost.

“We’re going to work with you guys as much as we can to develop this together; it’s going to be a work in progress,” Matiaco said during the Q&A, addressing industry professionals.

Preliminary lists of contractors, landscapers and nurseries offering wildfire risk reduction services are available at fireadaptedashland.org.

Listed companies have agreed to abide by Ashland’s prohibited flammable plant list and wildfire safety ordinance as it pertains to construction and landscaping around buildings, decks, additions and accessory structures.

As of Thursday, Central Point-based Lionstone Construction, Inc. was the first listed general and fencing contractor offering wildfire hardening options for the replacement or installation of siding, fence, roof, deck and metal flashing, and gutter cleaning services in Ashland.

Under the wildfire hazard mitigation code, wood shake roofing is prohibited. Standard roofing composite, metal, tile and approved noncombustible materials of class B or better may be used.

Requirements for rain gutters and roofing ventilation are intended to prevent accumulation of leaves and fire ignition in the roofing system. Exterior wall coverings must be noncombustible, ignition resistant, heavy timber log or made of materials rated and approved using a wildfire spread simulation system.

Exposed rafters and eaves and exterior patio and porch ceilings over 200 square feet must be protected by ignition resistant materials or a noncombustible sublayer. The requirements apply to structures within 12 feet above grade.

According to a 2019 housing cost impact statement by the state building codes division, municipalities that adopted the code can expect to see $2,500-$3,000 in labor and materials costs added to construction of a typical 1,200-square-foot detached single family home.

Matiaco said previously that so long as ignition-resistant materials such as box soffits and fiber cement siding are used, changes to flat lot building will be minimal, and most prominently affect people building on hillsides with decks.