Originally, most fire and building codes were written and adopted at the local government level. As a result, there were many differences in code provisions from community to community. Local problems often resulted in unique code provisions that were appropriate to the local situation, but not of much use in other communities.
With the development of uniform and model codes and their subsequent adoption by state governments, the common features were applied everywhere. Once the basic provisions were codified into a format and structure that had appeal to both code officials and the builder-development community, their code became “minimum standards.” The model codes were just that—a document that set the minimum criteria that most communities could find acceptable, but not intended to solve every problem everywhere. The developers of model codes left one option to be used: those exceptional situations that require local modifications based on a specific problem could use a specific process to increase the level of a particular requirement.
The solution that was commonly made available in the model adoption process was the development of written “findings of fact” that justified modifications by local code officials. Many state codes identify a specific adoption process. This provision requires that a certain amount of research and analysis be conducted to support a written finding that is both credible and professional. In the context of adopting a supplemental document such as the wildland-urban interface provision, the writing of these findings is essential in creating the maps and overlap needed to use their specific options.
The purpose of this appendix is to provide an overview of how local code officials could approach this process. There are three essential phenomena cited in some model adoption statutes that vary from community to community: climate, topography and geography. Although it can be agreed that there are other findings that could draw distinction in local effects, these three features are also consistent with standard code text that offers opportunity to be more restrictive than local codes.
One point that needs to be reinforced is that the process demands a high level of professionalism to protect the code official’s credibility in adopting more restrictive requirements. A superficial effort in preparing the findings of fact could jeopardize the proposed or adopted code restriction. A code official should devote a sufficient amount of time to draft the findings of fact to ensure that the facts are accurate, comprehensive and verifiable.
CLIMATE. The average course or condition of the weather at a particular place over a period of many years, as exhibited in absolute extremes, means and frequencies of given departures from these means (i.e., of temperature, wind velocity, precipitation and other weather elements).
GEOGRAPHY. “A science that deals with the earth and its life, especially the description of land, sea, air, and the distribution of plant and animal life including man and his industries with reference to the mutual relations of these diverse elements.” Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged.
INSURANCE SERVICES OFFICE (ISO). An agency that recommends fire insurance rates based on a grading schedule that incorporates evaluation of fire fighting resources and capabilities.
TOPOGRAPHY. The configuration of landmass surface, including its relief (elevation) and the position of its natural and man-made features that affect the ability to cross or transit a terrain.