As I reported in this column last month, Hillsborough
fire inspectors have stepped-up inspections on the firewalls in the attics of multi-family buildings. As you probably know, the purpose of the firewalls is to prevent the rapid spread of fires from unit to unit through the attic.
The security of the attic firewalls has long been a non-negotiable provision of the Florida Fire Prevention Code. The code states “the integrity of all draftstops shall be maintained.” Still, some landlords punch holes in the firewalls to run electric lines or cable or for other purposes.
A recent fire in Carrollwood may be the cause of the heightened awareness of the code requirement. The apartment building fire was likely caused by lightning. But, inadequate attic firewall protection may have contributed to the fire damaging 18 units.
Hillsborough County Fire Marshal Steve Kendrick told me, “Many times gaining access to do a visual inspection is all but impossible for our inspectors.”
I encourage you to work with the fire inspectors. Ask them to return on a date when you can facilitate access to the attic, either through a resident’s unit, with proper notice, or a vacant unit. Newer properties should locate “draft barrier diagrams” which were done during the design and construction of buildings. These diagrams will show the inspector that the firewalls were constructed to meet the code requirements.