State, county and fire officials looking into dangers of home proximity and building material laws

Home proximity in Tippecanoe County has been a hot topic since the Lindberg Village fire. Now county, state, and fire officials are working to potentially make a change.

Posted: Sep 6, 2019 6:01 PM
Updated: Sep 6, 2019 6:10 PM

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — Home proximity in Tippecanoe County has been a hot topic since the Lindberg Village fire. Now county, state, and fire officials are working to potentially make a change. This comes a week after investigators rule the Lindberg Village fires undetermined.

“Proximity is definitely an issue,” said Wabash Township Deputy Fire Chief Jim Lewis.

Lewis said this is a statement firefighters across the nation are saying.

“This is not the only time this has happened and it won't be the last time it happens because at the time when the houses were constructed this was the code,” said Lewis.

Indiana housing code requires at least a 6-foot distance between homes. The Lindberg Village homes double this with a 12-foot distance between homes. Tippecanoe County law has required at least a 12-foot distance since 1965. Lewis believes expanding the minimum distance to at least 15-feet for future neighborhood construction will help the issue.

“The vinyl siding that they put on the houses is highly flammable and then the foam board installation is basically polyurethane, so being close to the house with the house on fire, the radiant heat will travel,” said Lewis. “Once it gets started on fire it's just a big fire load.”

According to State Representative Chris Campbell, since the Lindberg Village homes were built, new laws have passed requiring all new construction to use better flame-resistant materials.

“When these houses were built, they met the code at the time and they were deemed safe housing,” said Campbell. “These homes did meet the building construction laws of the time, as far as I'm aware of so it would be really a financial hardship to impose on those homeowners to go back and make these repairs.”

Campbell said she has been working with the state to research issues of home proximity and building material. It's unclear if introducing a bill is necessary at this time.

Tippecanoe County planners say they're willing to meet with fire and elected officials to re-evaluate the current law.

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