The Utah County Commission may take as long as a month to dilute mountain home water-flow restrictions that are dictated by the county's year-old fire protection ordinance.
Members of the commission were expected to discuss revisions in the ordinance, which was developed by state and local fire experts after a 3,000-acre fire near Midway in 1990 killed two firefighters and destroyed 18 homes. Instead, commissioners asked Deputy County Attorney Mark Brady to take his time and gave him as long as a month to revise the ordinance, with input from homeowners and County Fire Marshal Tom Wroe."It's more important that we get it right than get it quick," Commissioner Gary Herbert said.
In particular, the commission asked Brady to rewrite the ordinance so requirements for "adequate fire flow," or having an outside water source capable of supplying enough water for fire protection, apply only to subdivisions that are approved after the passage of the amendments. For homes not serviced by a water line, this may mean a well or tank supplying sufficient water.
Brady suggested to the commissioners that owners or developers of existing subdivisions should be required to sign a waiver recognizing that their homes or subdivisions could be in severe fire danger because of a lack of proper fire flow and release the county from any legal responsibility should those buildings burn down.
The commission is also considering changing wording that would allow developers or homeowners of those new subdivisions a reduction of up to 75 percent in required water flow - if approved by Wroe - when the building is provided with adequate indoor sprinkling systems.
Commissioners asked both Brady and Wroe if other indoor fire protection, including systems that spray carbon dioxide on indoor fires, could also be included in those allowances.
"In actuality, anyone building a cabin as more than just a summer retreat would be prudent to install a sprinkling system," said Commissioner Richard Johnson. "But I have problems with making a sprinkling system a mandatory part of the ordinance."
The current fire protection ordinance is only effective in "wildlife-urban interface" areas of unincorporated Utah County. It regulates emergency water supplies and recreational fires and requires roof coverings and other building products to be made of fire-retardant materials.
Also, it requires mountain homes to have proper road and driveway clearance to allow county or city fire crews to reach them in case of an emergency.
One section of the ordinance empowers Wroe to grant exceptions or change standards for homeowners or tenants with "practical difficulties" meeting the code, "provided that the spirit of the code shall be complied with, public safety secured and substantial justice done."
Utah County has homes in its "urban interface" at Sundance, Alpine, Woodland Hills, Elk Ridge, Hobble Creek Canyon, Southfork Canyon and Covered Bridge Canyon. The ordinance does not affect Woodland Hills, Elk Ridge and Alpine because those cities are not in the unincorporated parts of the county.
In the past few years, brush fires near Alpine, Sundance and Woodland Hills - as well as this week's "Trojan No. 2" blaze that blackened 3,000 acres of Maple Mountain - have come close to being Midway-type fires.