Skip to content

Accessible Driveways Are Crucial in Getting Help To You

March 19, 2011

Our Chief has a saying.  We can have the best trucks, equipment and training at our disposal.  But good things don’t start happening for the customer until our people get on the scene and make good things happen for the customer.  Sometimes getting from the County road to the scene of someone’s emergency can be a bit of a challenge.

After Fire Storm 1991, a collection of Fire Chiefs, Building Officials and Engineers sat down to construct a comprehensive driveway standard based on lessons learned from a very long week of firefighting.  That standard, known as Technical Bulletin BP-17 is available at and covers the following:

1.    Grade –12% to 14% is about the maximum grade fire trucks can manage.  Furthermore, national standards on takeoff and approach angles for truck design equate to a maximum of 14%.

2.    Width – We need to get a truck in, lay hose and allow you to get out.  A fire truck is eight feet wide.  Laying supply hose takes up four feet on one side.  With that hose on the ground, we want eight foot clear width for the next truck to get in (or you to get out).  That’s where we get the 12’ width.

3.    Surface – The International Fire Code calls for an ‘all weather surface’ that will support the live load of our trucks.  We need traction in winter and something we won’t sink into during spring.  A gravel surface that supports a 75,000 pound live load will work.

4.    Turn Outs – If your driveway is longer than 400’, we need turn-outs so we can pull over and let you out.  Coming nose-to-nose with customers trying to get out of harm’s way only slows both of us down.  Turn-outs let us pull over so you can continue out, and we can continue in.

5.    Turn-arounds – We need to turn the truck around at your house.  National safety standards require wildland fire crews to park the truck with the nose pointed out ready to leave on a moment’s notice.  For structure fires that extra room helps with water supply.  Furthermore, statistics show that backing a truck farther than 150’ increases the frequency of accidents.  A 50’ cul-de-sac or hammer-head works great.

6.    Clear Height – The International Fire Code calls for a clear height of 13’ 6” based on the average height of fire apparatus.  That much clearance ensures we can get in.

7.    Curves – Fire trucks require a larger turn radius than the average SUV.  Technical Bulletin BP-17 specifies turns of not less than 100’ radius on the driveway centerline.

8.    Number of Homes – The driveway standard works great for one driveway serving up to three homes.  For more than three homes, experience shows that traffic loads get too great for a 12’ wide driveway.  Roads serving more than three homes must meet Spokane County Road Standards for a private or public road.  Spokane County Road Standards can be viewed at

If you’ve got questions about your driveway, you can call the Fire Prevention Division at 509-466-4602, or e-mail me at, or you can post your question as a  comments on this blog and I’ll get back to you with an answer.


From → Preparedness

  1. Susan permalink

    we are required to put in a driveway that is 18 ft wide, 200 feet long and will support 75000 pounds. Concrete drive will be 5 inches thick. How do we know it will support 75000 pounds and 75000 pounds spread out over what distance? My email is thank you

    • That takes engineering. An engineer can calculate how thick the concrete must be, how much reinforcement will be necessary, and what type of base must be used with your soil. Talk to your authority having jurisdiction (the agency requiring the 75,000 pound load). They may have some rules of thumb that will work too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: