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How well can new construction stand up against wildfires?

With Colorado staring down the threat of wildfires, the question comes up what are our homes made of.

DENVER — With Colorado staring down the threat of wildfires, the question comes up what are our homes made of and how much of a chance does it give us to survive a fire. 

A new build is a chance to do things right, so we took a look at how new construction has changed in Colorado. 

Greg Pixley, with Denver Fire, said the department regularly works with the city to make sure new developments are following fire and building codes to keep those buildings as safe as possible. 

He said construction materials have become more efficient and financially friendly, by using smaller pieces of wood and steel. He also said that gives firefighters less time inside a burning home because that material can burn faster. 

"Mass is a firefighter friend, larger the materials we use, larger stone, bricks, pieces of wood, gives us the ability to withstand a fire better and a better opportunity to rescue someone stuck inside," said Pixley. 

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He said a reliable building material is a brick. Pixley is talking about three to four layers of brick that can withstand fire better as well as weather like the weight of snow. 

"Some of the buildings you see in downtown Denver," said Pixley, giving an example. 

Firefighters know it's not always realistic when it comes to the cost of doing business, that's where building and fire codes become so important. 

"Building codes are the marathon game," said Dr. Ian Giammanco, with the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety. 

Dr. Giammanco said the right kind of roofing materials and non-combustible siding are being used and that's it's fortunate those materials are in the marketplace. 

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He did however say it's not being used in mass, in part because it's not always thought about. 

"We've struggled across all natural hazards here in the United State to make sure we account for all those hazards, wildfires is one of those," he said. 

Fire departments would like to have more conversations with builders and developers about building materials.  Some cities and counties have building departments having those same conversations. 

Those same talks are happening at a national level as well. 

Giammanco said they were a part of a study that shows the cost of building a home with materials that meet wildfire code is comparable to building a home without them. Things did get expensive when it comes to retrofitting homes. 


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