Fire Code Enforcement

The International Family of Codes is the basis for the design and safety features of a building. It is adopted by the State of Washington and the City of Oak Harbor and includes the Building Code, Fire Code, Mechanical Code, Electrical Code, and Residential Building Code (just a few of the entire family of codes). Due to major fire and life safety incidents, such as the MGM Grand Fire of 1980 (84 lives lost), Happy Land Social Club fire of 1997 (87 lives lost), the Station Nightclub fire of 2003 (100 lives lost), and to underscore the hundreds of lives lost in single and multi-family homes annually, new or improved fire and life safety requirements are adopted.

During the design phase of occupancy group classification (or the specific use) of the building is determined and the appropriate life safety requirements are applied. The specific use of the building will dictate the level of fire and life safety protection required.

The ultimate goal is to ensure the safest and most hazard free building possible. The Building Code addresses the basic or minimum building requirements, and the types of materials utilized in constructing buildings. The Code also establishes means of egress, travel distances to exits, building lighting, size of doors, hallways and exit and emergency lighting.

The greater the life-hazard, the more safety equipment or more restrictive design of the building is required. The safety items may include fire alarm systems, fire sprinkler systems, fire evacuation systems, the protection of the hood and duct cooking areas, or a combination of all of these items. Where the chance of loss of life is high, such as apartment or condominium complexes, assembly areas (meeting rooms, churches, schools, restaurants) and elderly care facilities the greater the need for life safety equipment.

The size, both in total square footage and overall height of the building, will also play an important role in determining the minimum required safety equipment.

The International Fire Code, as adopted by the City, is the basis for all fire and life safety items enforced by the Fire Department. Additionally the Oak Harbor Municipal Code has a section that provides more restrictive requirements than the Fire Code. The more restrictive elements include fire alarm systems for most commercial occupancies, water flow requirements, and the remodeling of existing buildings.

Lawful Conduct

The building owner or the tenant is responsible for the on-going safety, upkeep and code compliance requirements for their respective buildings. Some examples of lawful conduct include:

  • Not exceeding the maximum occupant load of the building. This occupant load is determined by the total square footage and the proposed building use.
  • Maintaining fire exits and all required exit lights and illumination.
  • Maintaining all portable fire extinguishers.
  • Completing annual confidence testing and certification of fire alarm and fire sprinkler systems.
  • Completing semi-annual hood and duct fire suppression system confidence testing.
  • Proper storage of flammable and combustible materials.
  • And, if required, conducting annual fire drills and on-going staff training.

See also our Fire Protection Systems Confidence Testing page.

For More Information

For more information on fire prevention, including building codes and compliance, please contact our Fire Marshal at 360-279-4700