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Fire Flow Standards
What is Fire Flow?
Fire flow is water required for firefighting purposes, usually a system of underground piping and fire hydrants. The International Fire Code, as adopted by Cowlitz County, requires fire flow to be provided for most residential and all commercial properties. Fire flow is often installed when building lots are created, but when required, will always need to be in place prior to construction of a building or use of the property. Fire flow usually consists of fire hydrants properly located on a public water line, but could also be smaller public or private water supplies or systems.

How much water is required?
Residential buildings up to 3,600 square feet usually require a minimum of 500 gallons per minute (GPM) for a minimum of 30 minutes. Larger homes and commercial properties require additional fire flow based on the size and use of the site. The minimum fire flow for these properties is 1,500 GPM for a minimum of two hours with increases for large buildings. Fire flow must be provided at a minimum of 20 p.s.i.

Cowlitz County Fire Code provides some exemptions for residential lots such as:
• If your lot is in excess on one acre in size and your building does not exceed 3,600 sq. ft. in area, you may be exempt from fire flow as long as a 20 foot separation from all property lines is maintained for the all buildings.
• If you construct your structures with certain fire retardant materials and provide an approved fire sprinkler system, you may be exempt.
• If you have a residential project and your property is within five road miles of a fully staffed fire station and your building does not exceed 3,600 sq. ft. in area, you may be exempt. from providing additional fire flow for your project.

Special circumstances:
At times, fire flow requirements may be increased or decreased by the Fire Marshal. Reasons to allow a decrease might be remote locations, or special construction considerations that decrease fire hazards. Situations that are deemed to increase or create special fire hazards may require an increase in required fire flow. Building size or use, construction materials, and location on property may contribute to a required increase.

Questions regarding the requirements for your specific project should be directed to the Building & Planning Department early in the development process. This will allow proper planning and help to avoid costly or timely delays for your project.

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