The outdoor storage of forest products (lumber) involves many arrangements of storage, from retail lumber outlets to the large cold decks found at wood processing facilities. Storage also involves a wide range of products, from wood chips and plywood to large tree logs for logging operations. If any of these types of storage goes unchecked, a fire could mean large product losses for the company and vast amounts of resources expended by the responding fire department.
Therefore, the requirements in Chapter 31 of NFPA 1, Fire Code, for the outdoor storage of forest products are aimed at minimizing the likelihood of fire, controlling a fire if one occurs, and ensuring rapid fire department access to the site should a fire occur. The fire department, AHJs, and users should be familiar with the site and pre-plan for fire incidents involving various scenarios.
In addition to the general provisions in Section 31.3.2 which are applicable, Section 31.3.3 provides requirements specific to the outdoor storage of lumber products at retail and wholesale storage yards. This includes lumber yards open to the public (think a local Lowe's, Home Depot, ProBuild) or and those that are private and offer wholesale services.
One of the most important requirements for lumber yards is to provide a positive fire prevention program. The fire hazard potential inherent in lumber storage operations with large quantities of combustible materials shall be addressed with this program under the direct supervision of upper level management. The program will include:
- Selection, design, and arrangement of storage yard areas and materials-handling equipment based upon proven fire prevention and protection principles
- Means for early fire detection, transmission of alarm, and fire extinguishment
- Fire department access roads to separate large stacks and provide access for effective fire-fighting operations
- Separation of yard storage from yard buildings and other exposing properties
- Effective fire prevention maintenance program, including regular yard inspections by trained personnel
The arrangement of the lumber stacks is also a critical for the safety of these facilities. The lumber stacks, if not arranged properly, can inhibit fire department access, can increase the speed of fire spread throughout the stacks or to adjacent structures or can cause early collapse during a fire. Some additional requirements for lumber stacks and open yard storage are as follows:
- Lumber stacks must be on stable ground.
- Stacking shall be stable and in an orderly and regular manner. A collapse of storage stacks could obstruct access roads or contribute to fire spread.
- The height of stacks cannot exceed 20 ft. Storage stacks taller than 20 ft (6 m) can significantly impede handheld hose stream operations by fire suppression personnel.
- Fire department access roads must be spaced so that a grid system of not more than 50 ft × 150 ft (15 m × 46m) is produced. Storage stacks wider than 50 ft × 150 ft (15 m × 46 m) can also significantly impede handheld hose stream operations by fire suppression personnel.
- The stack limits must be marked by boundary posts or painted boundary limits that indicate stacking limits.
- Open yard stacking shall be located with not less than 15 ft (4.6 m) clear space to buildings and to adjacent property lines. Automatic sprinkler protection in accordance with NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, should be considered for all buildings that might constitute an exposure to outside lumber storage.
The 2018 edition of NFPA 1 will include a new section for protection requirements for the outdoor storage of wood pallets and pallets listed as equivalent to wood as these facilities also create a number of challenges for the fire department suppression efforts and fire department access, and with the presence of tens of thousands of combustible pallets, can be the location for a devastating and costly fire should the proper precautions not be put in place.