Updated Fire Watch Requirements

As outlined in our previous Insights Post, “MA Fire Code Update”, the Board of Fire Prevention Regulations approved a new edition of 527 1.00 CMR, the Massachusetts Comprehensive Fire Safety Code, which took effect on December 9, 2022. Consequently, code users must now refer to the 2019 edition of NFPA 51b, Fire Prevention During Welding, Cutting, and Other Hot Work, and the 2022 Edition of NFPA 241 for additional requirements concerning hot work on construction sites. Significant code changes have been enacted, affecting pricing, scheduling, and risk mitigation. This will be outlined in this and future Insights posts.

The 2014 edition of NFPA 51b, which was referenced by the edition of 527 CMR 1.00 applicable prior to December 9, 2022, required that a fire watch for the duration of the hot work operation and an additional ½ hour after the completion of hot work operations to detect and extinguish potential smoldering fires. This duration could be extended where required by the Permit Authorizing Individual (PAI).

With the new reference to the 2019 edition of NFPA 51b, the duration for maintaining a fire watch has been increased to a minimum of 1 hour after the completion of hot work, irrespective of the hot work operation, location, occupancy, or construction type. Additionally, NFPA 51b Section 5.6.3 introduces a new provision requiring fire monitoring within the hot work area for up to an additional 3 hours after the completion of the 1-hour fire watch, as determined by the PAI.

In addition to the extended baseline fire watch duration, the 2022 edition of NFPA 241, also newly reference by 527 CMR 1.00, increases the duration of fire watches for specific hazardous operations and building construction types. Section of 527 CMR 1.00 requires a 2-hour fire watch after torch-applied roofing operations. New chapters in NFPA 241, addressing the construction of large wood and tall mass timber buildings, increase the minimum fire watch duration to 2 hours (as indicated in 527 CMR 1.00 Section 16.24.8 and 16.25.7). Notably, both chapters prohibit the use of torch applied roofing for these construction types.

The strategy for meeting the new fire watch requirements should be reviewed on each project, as the manpower, budget, and scheduling implications could have significant implications.

Code Red Consultants will continue to monitor these code adoptions and provide updates as more information is released.

Application of any information provided, for any use, is at the reader’s risk and without liability to Code Red Consultants. Code Red Consultants does not warrant the accuracy of any information contained in this blog as applicable codes and standards change over time. The application, enforcement and interpretation of codes and standards may vary between Authorities Having Jurisdiction and for this reason, registered design professionals should be consulted to determine the appropriate application of codes and standards to a specific scope of work.