When the Mid County Fire Protection District Board discussed the possibility of making changes to its fire safety ordinances last month, it struck a chord with community members and other fire officials.
The possibility of moving forward with the proposed changes is drawing attention from other local fire protection districts. Osage Beach Fire Protection District Chief Jeff Dorhauer does not support the changes, but said that he and his staff will still aid Mid County if the changes are approved. "What is going on in Mid County is a travesty and due to this, those citizens need someone they can count on, if it is the Osage Beach Fire Protection District, so be it," he said.
Board members Mike High and Rod Sederwall are focused on whether Mid County has the right to enforce building codes. "It is beyond our scope of authority," High claims. Both High and Sederwall feel the county should only enforce fire safety codes, not building codes.
In the safety ordinance draft High presented the board in October, only eleven codes existed, all of which were residential fire safety codes. He proposed to do away completely with commercial codes.
In a meeting with the Lake Sun on Nov. 6, High and Sederwall presented a new draft which included 16 codes, eleven of which were the original residential codes and five new commercial codes.
According to Sederwall, a retired Missouri Highway Patrol officer, his years of law enforcement experience taught him to "not go outside of [the law], you change it."
In the list of reasons to why these changes are proposed it reads, "2006 International Building Code Inspections are costing MCFPD considerably more than fees collected." Even though the budget seems to be a driving force in the proposed changes, both High and Sederwall suggest that the idea of authority is a bigger factor. "It's not about the budget. It's about the authority to do it," Sederwall said.
Sederwall also has issues with the current codes because he fears it is impossible to inspect for all the codes that are enforced. "If you require something, you need to inspect for it," he said.
Osage Beach Fire Protection District will continue to send back up to fires in Mid County's district even if they change their codes, but will have to weigh the risks more heavily.
"We provide mutual aid to many district's around the lake that do not enforce building codes, Mid County would be no different in this aspect. Like all fires that we respond to we, have to look at the 'risk vs benefit' with our actions," Dorhauer said. "We will risk a lot to save a lot and will risk little to save little. When we get into areas that do not have adequate codes this has to be looked at when you develop your plan of attack, areas without building codes will tip the scale on the risk side quicker than those with codes. These areas would call for more of a defensive attack if no lives are in danger than those will some codes and protection in place."
Fifty-seven fire protection districts in the state of Missouri follow the International Building codes, including Mid County. "Codes and changes in codes have come about due to some devastating and deadly fires over the history of the United States. If we do not learn from our past, if we do not learn from our mistakes then we are destined to repeat them," Dowhauer added. "Codes are in place to protect the public and to protect your first responders."
The newest version of the proposed changes includes a disclaimer that reads, "It is the recommendation of MCFPD that all contractors/builders/home owners follow the current International Building Code including Electrical for the safety of life and protection of property." If the changes are passed, the International Building Code would not be enforced, but simply recommended.
High and Sederwall hope that the current proposed changes open up communication on this topic and are merely the beginning. "We hope to use this as a starting point to get the ball rolling," High said.
The board is scheduled to discuss the proposed changes at length at its next meeting on Nov. 15.