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Orange County Focus

IRVINE : Campaign Heats Up for Fire-Safe Roofs

November 13, 1993|SHELBY GRAD

City officials are working with Irvine's homeowner associations to make it easier for residents to replace wood-shake roofs with more fire-resistant materials.

The effort, which began earlier this year, has taken on greater urgency since the Laguna Beach firestorm two weeks ago.

More than half the homes in Irvine are covered by wood-shake materials, which fire officials say are highly combustible.

In many Irvine villages, homeowner association bylaws strictly dictate the exterior appearance of homes, including the type of roofing materials that residents must use.

The city's actions were prompted in part by complaints from a handful of residents who said their associations made it difficult for them to replace their roofs.

City officials have contacted 41 associations to inform members about the dangers of wood roofs and to encourage them to allow replacements.

All but 11 associations have responded to the city's queries. Most have agreed to permit residents to replace wood roofs with fire-resistant ones, said Bob Storchheim, city building officer.

"Once you reason with them, they are very cooperative," said Storchheim. "They've been very reasonable." Officials hope to meet with the remaining associations.

City codes allow wood shake roofs as long as they are treated with a plastic coating that makes them flame resistant.

Nonetheless, more than 13,000 of the city's 30,000 roofs are covered with untreated wood, mostly in older developments built before the regulations were adopted. About 5,000 homes are covered with treated wood, while 11,500 homes--mostly in newer developments, including Westpark--use non-combustible roofing materials such as tile.

The city considered imposing a ban on untreated wood roofs. But officials said they are unsure if such a law would be enforceable because it could conflict with homeowner association rules.

"Right now, we are seeing positive results in educating" residents, said Council member Paula Werner. "We consider this an educational message."

Storchheim plans to step up the city's campaign by attending homeowner association meetings to discuss fire safety and wood roofs. He wants to persuade residents to replace the wood coverings when it comes time to remodel their homes.

Roof Lines There are about 30,500 residential roofs in Irvine, with the largest portion made of untreated wood shakes. A plastic coating makes treated shakes fire resistant. Untreated wood shakes: 45% Treated wood shakes: 17% Non-combustible coverings*: 38% * Such as tile Source: city of Irvine

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