Ketchum fire chief wants wood shingles banned

Associated PressSeptember 1, 2013 

— A Central Idaho fire chief says he will be “fighting tooth and nail” to ban wood shingles on new construction in the wake of a massive wildfire that threatened the resort area.

“The wood shingles have got to go,” Ketchum Fire Chief Mike Elle told the Idaho Mountain Express.

The 174-square-mile Beaver Creek Fire burning through Greenhorn Gulch on Aug. 15 destroyed one home but firefighters saved 30 others. He said flammable roofs put firefighters in danger and slow response times to other homes.

“Talking to Forest Service folks, they’ve never seen conditions that were that bad when structures were present,” Elle said. “They expected to lose many more.”

He said the house that burned was a log structure with a wood-shake roof. Only two chimneys remained.

Jeff Nevins of Wood River Fire & Rescue said the owner had a fire line cut around the house that stopped the flames, but hot embers landed on the roof, igniting the structure.

He said the house was at least 25 percent consumed by flames, a threshold for firefighters to move on to protect other buildings.

“There was so much other activity that commanded our attention,” he said.

Elle said a good time to propose a ban to the Blaine County Commission would be when the state adopts the 2012 International Fire Code.

State Fire Marshal Mark Larson said a temporary measure is on track to be adopted Jan. 1, becoming permanent if approved by the Legislature.

Larson said the code doesn’t ban wood shingles, but local governments could enact such a ban.

Blaine County already requires a standard that wood shingles meet if treated with a fire retardant. But Larson said the retardant deteriorates over time.

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