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Director:
J.E. “Sam” Ryan, CBO

5280 Northwest Drive
Bellingham, Washington 98226
Telephone: (360) 676-6907
E-mail: pds@co.whatcom.wa.us

 
Residential / Personal Storage Road Access Requirements

If your driveway is longer than 150’ from a County Roadway to your building than your permit will be reviewed by the Fire Marshal’s Office to ensure a fire truck can make it to your building in the event of an emergency.  Items that our office reviews are:  Road Width, Turnouts, Turnarounds, and Private Bridges.

Road Width

The minimum driveway width for a single house is 12 feet of drivable surface.  If you share your driveway (or private roadway) with other homes your driveway width will increase depending on the number of users (homes) on the driveway or roadway. 

Currently our driveway widths for more than one user are:
* 1-2 Users                  12 feet
* 3-6 Users                  18 feet
* Over 7 Users             26 feet

Turn-outs

If your driveway is only 12 feet wide and longer than 600 feet you may be required to put in a turnout.  A turnout is a spot where the road widens out to 20 feet wide for approximately 60 feet long to allow two vehicles to pass. 

Turnarounds

If your driveway is over 150 feet long you will be required to have a place for a fire engine to turnaround within 150 feet of your building.  Turnarounds can come in several forms including a loop, a cul-de-sac, or a hammerhead.  Click here to see a diagram of a turnaround. The minimum size shall be 20 feet wide by 45 feet deep.

Grade & Surface

Any portion of a fire apparatus access road or driveway at 12% grade or greater is required to have a hard surface, i.e. asphalt or concrete. An automatic sprinkler system, which meets the requirement of NFPA 13D and includes a fire department connection located within a fire department staging area, shall be provided for all buildings. The automatic sprinkler system(s) shall be monitored.

Any portion of a fire apparatus access road or driveway at 15% grade or greater is required to have a hard, grooved surface of Portland cement per the Whatcom County Development Standards (Chapter 5, Road Standards, Section 505, Tables 1 & 2, Footnote 3). An automatic sprinkler system, which meets the requirement of NFPA 13D and includes a fire department connection located within a fire department staging area, shall be provided for all buildings. The automatic sprinkler system(s) shall be monitored. All sections of the fire apparatus access road or driveway over 15% grade shall be provided with and approved form of heat or melt system.

The Fire Marshal has the discretion to withhold approval of access roads or driveways for any site specific conditions that make passage of fire apparatus and emergency response vehicles impractical, difficult, and/or hazardous.

Private Bridges

Bridges on private roads need to hold the load of a fire truck.  If you are designing a bridge for your driveway the bridge will need to be engineered to meet Federal Highway Standards – HS20 load requirements.  If you have an existing bridge that your driveway must cross that has not been approved by the Fire Marshal’s Office in the last 5 years, you will need an Engineer’s observation report showing that the bridge meets this HS-20 load requirement.