VA Fire Code

Live Christmas Trees Now Allowed in Apartments and Churches!

Fire Code Press Release
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Recent Changes Overview
Fire Marshall Contact List

Last November Christmas tree growers, sellers, and customers were shocked when the news was released that the Virginia Fire Laws had been changed, stating that it was illegal to display a fresh-cut tree in, churches, apartments or multi-unit dwellings not equipped with a sprinkler system. This caused much confusion, as well as significant loss of tree sales for tree growers and retailers. The law was suspended in short order, but not before the damage was done.

But during the summer of 2004 this law was officially repealed, so that now the previous restrictions (with some modifications) are again in place, but only on a temporary emergency basis, to end July 2005. This is a statewide code, that can be made further restrictive by county governments, though it cannot be made less restrictive. Please check with your local fire marshal or county official to be certain of your county’s code.

If your county is in the process of reviewing its Fire Prevention Code, we urge you to make your concerns known to them. A list of regional offices is below.
Go to http://www.dhcd.virginia.gov/State_Fire_Marshal/default.htm to learn more.

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The following is a press release with more information:

Virginia State Fire Marshal Announces Changes to Natural Cut Christmas Tree Regulations – New Regulations Permit Natural Cut Trees in Apartment Units and Places of Worship

RICHMOND – The Virginia Board of Housing and Community Development, which is responsible for the state’s building and fire code regulations, adopted changes to section 804.1 of the Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code to allow for the use of natural cut Christmas trees in individual apartment units and places of worship. The board approved the regulations on May 17 and the regulations have been approved by the governor’s office.

In March, the General Assembly approved legislation directing the Board of Housing and Community Development to make the code changes and to seek input from numerous local and state constituencies to develop the new regulations. The Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Virginia Fire Services Board conferred with local and state building and fire officials and representatives from religious organizations, apartment management organizations, and Christmas tree growers. These representatives worked to develop regulations that would promote safety during the holiday season while preserving the holiday tradition of natural cut Christmas trees in places of worship and individual apartment dwelling units.

The changes to the Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code were adopted as emergency regulations. The regulations will be valid for one year after the date on which they become effective, July 8, 2004. The Board of Housing and Community Development is currently taking the appropriate actions to make the regulations permanent.

The Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office will be working with its state and local partners to ensure Virginia’s citizens are aware of the code change and to encourage the highest level of safety during the holidays.

“Regardless if you are in a single-family home, an apartment, a church, or any other occupancy, natural cut Christmas trees need to be properly used and cared for to prevent accidents and injuries caused by fire,” stated Ed Altizer, Virginia State Fire Marshal. “As we get closer to the holidays we will be working to promote holiday safety and reminding citizens that if they choose natural cut trees, make sure they are watered every day, are in a sturdy stand, and are not used in conjunction with any open flames.” Additional tips for holiday fire safety can be found below.

Citizens should contact their local fire marshal or the State Fire Marshal at sfmo@dhcd.virginia.gov with questions about the use of natural cut Christmas trees in their homes or places of business.

Go to http://www.dhcd.virginia.gov/State_Fire_Marshal/default.htm to learn more.

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CLICK HERE to save and print the above press release for your local media!
(this is a pdf file (about 50K), which requires a “pdf reader” to open. If you don’t have one, please download the free Acrobat Reader from the link below)

Click here to save and print a SIGN to post at your place of business, that explains the current statewide code.
This is designed for the standard 8.5″ x 11″ paper size, and should print as “landscape”. If it doesn’t please set your printer for that option. For durability, we suggest you use heavy paper, and/or laminate it.

PLEASE NOTE that this sign displays STATEWIDE rules only, for the most common instances. Your LOCAL COUNTY rules may have further restrictions, but cannot have less restrictions. If in doubt, please check with your regional fire marshall.

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Here are the recent changes to the Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code, concerning the display of live Christmas trees:

13 VAC 5-51-134. IFC Chapter 8 Interior Finish, Decorative Materials and Furnishings.

804.1.1 Restricted occupancies. Natural cut trees shall be prohibited in Group A, E, I-1, I-2, I-3, I-4, M, R-1, R-2 and R-4 occupancies.

Exceptions:
1) Trees located in areas protected by an approved automatic sprinkler system installed in accordance with Section 903.3.1.1 or 903.3.1.2 shall not be prohibited in Groups A, E, M, R-1 and R-2.
2) Trees shall be permitted within dwelling units in Group R-2 occupancies.
3) Trees shall be permitted in places of worship in Group A occupancies.

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Here is a list of Fire Prevention Officials for the different regions of Virginia:
Please contact your representative if you have questions about your local laws, or wish to make your concerns known to them.

State Fire Marshal
Charles E. (Ed) Altizer, P.E.
Tel: (804) 371-7170
Fax: (804) 371-7092
E-mail: Ed.Altizer@dhcd.virginia.gov

Chief Engineer
Richard (Rick) A. Farthing, P.E.
Tel: (804) 371-7170
Fax: (804) 371-7092
E-mail Rick.Farthing@dhcd.virginia.gov

Southwest – Marion
Regional Engineer: Claude O. Hutton, P.E.
281 Bagley Circle
Marion, VA 24354
Tel: (276) 783-3461
Fax: (276) 783-7132
E-mail: Claude.Hutton@dhcd.virginia.gov

Central – Richmond
Regional Engineer: Ronald C. Reynolds, MPH
501 N. Second St.
Richmond, VA 23219-1321
Tel: (804) 371-7170
Fax: (804) 371-7092
E-mail: Ron.Reynolds@dhcd.virginia.gov

Northern – Sperryville
Regional Engineer: William R. (Bill) Pooton
11755B Lee Highway
Sperryville, VA 22470
Tel: (540) 987-9452
Fax: (540) 987-9703
E-mail: Bill.Pooton@dhcd.virginia.gov

Western – Roanoke
Regional Engineer: Elaine B. Gall, P.E.
3025 A Peters Creek Rd.
Roanoke, VA 24019
Tel: (540) 562-3546
Fax: (540) 562-3508
E-mail: Elaine.Gall@dhcd.virginia.gov

Tidewater – Norfolk
Regional Engineer: Frank F. Duffee
400 N. Center Dr., Suite 205
Norfolk, VA 23502
Tel: (757) 455-3820
Fax: (757) 455-3844
E-mail: Frank.Duffee@dhcd.virginia.gov

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