Fire code updates recently adopted by the City Council include limitations to the size and spacing of solar panels on roofs and requirements for sprinkler systems in new single-family homes, among other restrictions.
Homeowners must be sure solar panels installations, which are gaining popularity in Piedmont, leave room for firefighters to cut vents in the roof as necessary to let out smoke and heat in the event of a fire.
"You have to give us areas where we can put ladders that are not in trees or power lines or windows," said Piedmont Fire Chief Ed Tubbs, who delivered the recommendations for fire code updates to the council.
The ordinance requires that no solar array be greater than 150 feet by 150 feet. In buildings with a hip roof layout, panels or modules have to be located in a way that leaves a pathway three feet wide from the eave to the ridge on each roof slope where the panels or modules are located. In houses with single ridges, the panels have to leave two three-foot wide pathways from the eave to the ridge on each roof slope.
Panels and modules can't be located closer than 18 inches to a hip or valley if they are to be placed on both sides of it. If they are on only one side, then the panels can be put directly adjacent to the hip or valley. The panels and modules can't be higher than three feet below the ridge and there has to be a minimum of six feet of clear space around the perimeter of the roof.
The pathways have to be strong enough to support firefighters walking on them, and they have to run in straight lines not less than four feet clear to skylights and ventilation hatches.
Since very few new buildings are planned for the city, the sprinkler regulation won't affect very many people, Tubbs said. Owners of existing homes would only have to install sprinklers if they remodel 70 percent or more of the building.
The sprinkler systems must comply with the standards of the National Fire Protection Association.
The new rules also mandate firefighter access roads for new buildings and permits for temporary water supplies needed during the construction. Christmas tree sales now require permits and the use and sale of fireworks in the city is banned.
The entire municipal code can be viewed on the city website, http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/citycode.shtml.