NFPA 1: Specifications of Fire Department Access Roads, #firecodefridays

Blog Post created by kristinbigda Employee on May 20, 2016

Section 18.2 of NFPA 1, Fire Code, 2015 edition, addresses fire department access, and, more specifically, Section 18.2.3 provides requirements for fire department access roads.  There is a lot of detail in Code regarding fire department access, but this post will focus on the specifications and dimensional criteria required for fire department access roads; more details regarding fire department access will be provided in future posts. 



Approved fire department access roads are required for every facility, building, or portion of a building constructed or relocated. The access roads must be designed and constructed as follows:

  • WIDTH: unobstructed width not less than 20 ft (6.1 m).
  • CLEARANCE: vertical clearance not less than 13 ft 6 in. (4.1 m).
    • The vertical clearance can be reduced, as long as it does not impair access by fire apparatus, and approved signs are installed and maintained indicating the established vertical clearance when approved.
    • Vertical clearances can be increased when vertical clearances or widths are not adequate to accommodate fire apparatus.
  • SURFACE: The access roads must be designed and maintained to support the loads of fire apparatus and provided with an all-weather driving surface.
  • RADIUS: turning radius must be approved by the AHJ; turns in the road cannot reduce the width.
  • DEAD ENDS: When the road is more than 150 ft (46 m) approved provisions for the fire apparatus to turn around must be provided.
  • BRIDGES: Must be in accordance with national recognized standards; designed for a live load sufficient to carry the imposed load of the fire apparatus; any limits on loading must be posted at all entrances to the bridge
  • GRADE: The angle of approach and departure along the road must not exceed 1 ft drop in 20 ft (0.3 m drop in 6 m)
    • Fire department access roads connecting to roadways must be provided with curb cuts extending at least 2 ft (0.61 m) beyond each edge of the fire lane.


Overall, the Code provides broad minimum design requirements for fire department access roads. For more specific design information, see A Policy on Geometric Design of Highways and Streets, published by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), available for purchase at, or consult applicable state and local roadway design standards.


Have you faced any design or construction issues related to fire department access roads? What are the common issues with fire department access?  Share your experiences and photos here!


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