How new construction resists forest fires

As Colorado watches the threat of wildfires, the question arises of what our homes are made of.

DENVER — As Colorado looks at the threat of wildfires, the question arises of what our homes are made of and what chance does that give us of surviving a fire.

New construction is a chance to get it right, so we took a look at how new construction has changed in Colorado.

Greg Pixley of Denver Fire said the department regularly works with the city to make sure new developments meet fire and building codes to keep those buildings as safe as possible.

He said building materials have become more efficient and more affordable, using smaller pieces of wood and steel. He also said it gives firefighters less time inside a burning house because this material can burn faster.

“Mass is a fireman’s friend, the bigger the materials we use, the more stone, bricks, pieces of wood give us the better ability to withstand a fire and a better opportunity to save someone stuck in the fire. ‘inside,” Pixley said.

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He said that a reliable building material is a brick. Pixley talks about three to four layers of bricks that can better withstand fire as well as bad weather like the weight of snow.

“Some of the buildings you see in downtown Denver,” Pixley said, giving an example.

Firefighters know that’s not always realistic when it comes to the cost of doing business, which is where building and fire codes become so important.

“Building codes are the marathon game,” said Dr. Ian Giammanco, of the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety.

Dr Giammanco said the right kind of non-combustible roofing and cladding materials are being used and it is fortunate that these materials are on the market.

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He said, however, that it wasn’t used en masse, partly because it wasn’t always thought of.

“We’ve been dealing with all of the natural hazards here in the United States to make sure that we account for all of those hazards, wildfires are one of them,” he said.

Fire departments would like to have more conversations with builders and developers about building materials. Some cities and counties have building departments having these same conversations.

These same talks are also taking place at the national level.

Giammanco said they were part of a study that shows the cost of building a home with wildfire code-compliant materials is comparable to building a home without them. Things have gotten expensive when it comes to renovating homes.

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