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New Construction Requirements

General Information

The following policies apply generally to any building or site (except single family or duplex dwellings). With the exception of the policies on corridor storage and on emergency planning (specific to certain occupancies), the policies relate to fundamental issues of access for emergency personnel and fire protection

Disrupted Service - Fire Protection Systems

When a fire protection system is out of service, a fire watch may be required. Contact the Fire Prevention Bureau for details.


Emergency Plan and Information

An emergency plan is required for all office buildings of two or more stories; for hotels, motels, and lodging houses; and for Group I, Division 1 and 2 facilities.


Fire Access Roadways

A fire lane is often required when buildings are located a distance from the public road. Usually this is designated when the building or complex is built. Fire lanes may also be found on streets when the road width limits access for emergency vehicles. These lanes must be maintained by the property owner.


Knox Box Requirements and Procedure for Ordering

A KNOX Box is a secure box that allows Fire Department fast access to your building without causing damage. It is a secured box, installed near the entrance to the building that only the fire department has access to.


Also inside this box is required the emergency contact information so we can quickly contact the responsible persons. This information and current keys must be maintained. Call the Fire Prevention office at (559) 713-4266 for assistance. The KNOX Company also makes KNOX switches which allow emergency vehicle access through a gate. All commercial buildings larger than 800 sq. ft. require this box.


Premises Identification

The address of new and existing buildings is required by City Ordinance AND State law. Numerals are to be visible from the roadway. This sometimes requires a sign at the roadway along with numbers on the building. Numbers are to be a minimum of 6” in height and on contrasting colors.

Fire Department Plan Check

Plans are required prior to the issuance of any kind of permit. The size, type, and location of the proposed building will dictate the permits and approvals needed from the various City departments. This will also determine the type and number of inspections that will be required throughout the construction process.


The Fire Department’s role in this process is to assure that there is adequate water supply in the case of an emergency. There are minimum distances for fire hydrant spacing that depend on the type of occupancy you have (i.e. residential or commercial; single family house or multi-story apartment). City of Visalia Hydrant Ordinance


We also look for access to assure that we can get to your house if you need us. We need enough room for the engines to turn corners and pass vehicles trying to flee from a fire or other disaster. We also need enough room to stabilize our trucks in case the ladders need to be extended from the trucks. If we didn’t do this, the truck would turn over because of the weight and extension of the ladder.


After the ‘call’ is over, we have to be able turn around to get out! It is difficult and dangerous to back up these engines and trucks. That is why it is important for people to park correctly and not extend into courts or hammerheads.


The details of fire suppression systems and Building Code issues are handled by the Visalia Building Department. Although our Fire Inspectors are qualified, the plan review and testing of new systems are handled through the Building Department and then the Fire Department is charged with maintaining these systems. The permit is actually issued by the Building Department after they have been reviewed and ‘approved’.  Contact the Building Department at 559-713-4330.


Fire Sprinklers


These are the best way to protect life and when you break it down, in a residential home, the cost is about that of carpet. These systems are designed to give the occupants enough time to escape a fire. What we find very often is that the sprinkler has also put the fire out even though they are not designed for that purpose.


Contrary to popular belief, not all the sprinkler heads go off at the same time! They are individual and will go off (or ‘flow’) once the area below it reaches and preset temperature. The only time a second head or more will flow is if the fire reaches that area. The amount of water from a fire sprinkler system is far less than the water from the hoses we bring with us and therefore the water damage is usually much less.


Commercial sprinklers are a different design and work a little differently and are either individually controlled heads or they can also be deluge systems that flood the area with water. It all depends on what the building is used for.


Visalia has a fire sprinkler ordinance which requires fire sprinkler systems in all building 5,000 square feet or more. If a building addition is added which makes the building more than 5,000 square feet, the whole building will be sprinklered.  

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