The Fat Fireman Rule
WHO IS THE FAT FIREMAN, AND WHY DOES HE NEED A RULE?
Standing amid the debris of a smoking ruin stands a grim and hulking figure. In one hand he wields an ax, in the other a fire hose. His noble brow is furrowed as his eyes dart from right to left in search of families in danger. He is committed to saving lives. Larger than the typical fireman, his width is barely contained within the dimensions of an attic access, 30 X 22 inches. In some circles he would be called heavy, in others, huge, but in regulatory agencies throughout the country, he is known as "The Fat Fireman!"
Advocates of the rights of large people and the Political Correct Police may take offense at use of the term "Fat Fireman". In a spirit of compassion, I tried to come up with a more tactful moniker. I thought of Corpulent Crusader, Stocky Samaritan, and Immense Immerser. Yet, these titles seemed small and inappropriate. I decided to stick with "Fat Fireman". I consoled my sensitive-side by noting that "fat" is merely a descriptive term, by itself neither good nor bad.
The very nature of the Fat Fireman makes his rule necessary. Being helpful, he has an uncontrollable need to rush into places of danger during disaster. A person awaiting his timely arrival would not wish to see him hurry up the front porch steps of a burning home only to be stopped by a narrow front door.
Thus, the Fat Fireman rule has to do with the free movement of large bodies in afflicted structures. It is to accommodate the fat fireman that doors are built to a certain width, the reason attic accesses must have at least a 104 inch perimeter, and why windows in upstairs bedrooms are required to be both a certain size and a certain distance from the floor.
Because the Fat Fireman Rule, like insulation, is a recent development in building codes, the old part of a house may not meet all modern code requirements. The most likely discrepancy will be the attic access.
At a bare seventeen inches wide, my attic access was far from adequate for the Fat Fireman. A fat fireman might be able to get his arm or his head into the attic, but not both at the same time.
If your present access is too small, you will be required to put another into the addition even though you already have one that leads to the same space. There is no grandfather clause that covers a new attic with an old access.
Widening the old access might not be practical because there is also a Tall Fireman Rule. It requires a certain amount of headroom for entry into a space. To make my old access meet the specifications for both the tall and the fat fireman rules I would have had to build a dormer over it. Next thing you know, they are going to want addition builders to put in stepladders for short firemen. Why not provide a pair of glasses for forgetful myopic firemen who leave their own glasses at the station in the excitement of a call?