This morning I saw a video (embedded below) that was posted on Facebook by the Sacramento Fire Department. It is helmet-cam footage of a fire captain entering a home and closing the door between the living area and the garage. Unfortunately, the smoke from the fire had spread extensively from the garage into the home by that time; if the door had been closed when the fire began (and remained closed), it’s likely that the damage would have been reduced.
Watching this video reminded me of a change to the 2018 International Residential Code (IRC) that I was involved with. In my opinion, it is extremely important for the door between a garage and a house to be closed if/when a fire occurs – here’s some info from FEMA on garage fires. The IRC already included a requirement for these doors to be self-closing (equipped with a closer or spring hinges), but for some reason it is still common to find garage doors that are not self-closing.
One theory is that it is inconvenient to have a self-closing door in that location. New products are becoming available which will close a residential door when a fire occurs, so the IRC was changed to address the possibility of using an automatic-closing device on a garage door. The term “automatic-closing device” is not defined in the IRC, but NFPA 80 does include a definition: “A device that causes the door or window to close when activated by a fusible link or detector.” Installing an automatic-closing device on a garage door (or a bedroom door!) would allow the door to be opened and closed manually but would help to ensure that the door is closed if there is a fire.
Here is the applicable section from the 2018 IRC:
R302.5.1 Opening protection. Openings from a private garage directly into a room used for sleeping purposes shall not be permitted. Other openings between the garage and residence shall be equipped with solid wood doors not less than 1 3/8 inches (35 mm) in thickness, solid or honeycomb core steel doors not less than 1 3/8 inches (35 mm) thick, or 20-minute fire-rated doors, equipped with a self-closing or automatic-closing device.
And here’s the video from the Sacramento Fire Department:
I don’t have an attached garage, but if I did, I would make sure that the door is self-closing or automatic-closing. Is this something you have considered for your own home?
Photo: Glassboro Fire Department