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Sayre Fire spurs mobile home concerns

November 17, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Is it possible to build a fire-resistant mobile home? State leaders hope to avoid another catastrophe like the one at the mobile home park in Sylmar where two-thirds of the homes burned to the ground. Monday, some officials said it could have been avoided. There's already a call for tougher building codes for new mobile homes. With every fire in California, state leaders learn lessons. The Sayre Fire gobbled up much of the Oakridge Mobile Home Park over the weekend, showing that maybe it's time to beef up the building codes for mobile homes.

"They're lightweight construction; they ignite easily, and when one gets going, the heat intensity is very great. It soon turns into sometimes a conflagration," said Kevin Reinertson, Senior Deputy State Fire Marshal, Office of the State Fire Marshal.

An out-of-control fire is exactly what happened. Residents finally got to see Monday what's left of the nearly 500 mobile homes destroyed.

Since July 1, the state has mandated that all new single-family homes near high fire danger zones use ignition-resistant materials on roofs, siding and decks, meaning it should take at least 20 minutes for a flying ember to set the house on fire. Governor Schwarzenegger now says those regulations need to be applied to mobile home parks too.

"We should start thinking about building, also, the mobile homes with the same fire-retardant materials that we now build in those fire-prone areas when we build homes," the governor said Saturday. "I think that would have saved probably a lot of those mobile homes."

The goal is to buy time for firefighters to get to the burning homes and for homeowners to escape.

The state hopes to have the new requirements in place by late January, meaning the fire victims at Oakridge will likely have to follow the stricter rules if they decide to stay.

"Hopefully, it will provide this level of safety when it comes to these events, like the fires," said Chris Robinson, Calif. Dept. of Housing and Community Development.

There are 4,200 mobile home parks across California with about 400,000 spaces.

Once the new codes are adopted, they would apply only to new construction, and not be retroactive, thus leaving thousands of mobile homes vulnerable.

The mobile home industry estimates ignition-resistant materials would add as much $1,500 to the cost of a home.


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