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County, city trade fire

Local governments at odds over fire codes for film sets

Posted: December 3, 2009 9:59 p.m.
Updated: December 4, 2009 4:55 a.m.

It's the city of Santa Clarita versus Los Angeles County Fire Department, and what's at stake is the local multimillion-dollar filming industry.

During the City Council's Nov. 24 meeting, council members blasted the county fire department about a new regulation that subjects movie set buildings to inspections.

"Regulation 29 (the new fire code) would do a very good job of crippling the movie studios," Councilman Bob Kellar said Thursday.

The county fire department defends the policy adopted in May as one that will prevent fires like the one that ripped through the back lot at Universal Studios last year.

One high-ranking fire official said he thinks Santa Clarita officials should have taken more time to look at the policy before reacting.

"The people commenting at the City Council meeting, apparently didn't read the regulation," said Deputy Chief Scott Poster.

The new code requires densely packed buildings on movie sets to pass inspection before they can be used. It also forces studios to install sprinkler systems. The regulation applies to new or modified buildings. It also subjects structures that will stand for more than 180 days to the regulation.

Buildings built before the code took effect are unaffected. It was unclear whether local movie sets will be impacted by the code.
"We haven't been contacted by any of the movie ranches in Santa Clarita yet," Poster said. "For instance, it doesn't affect anything at Melody Ranch."

Kellar, however, ripped into the policy, calling it a "job killer."

"Collectively, this filming industry represents millions of dollars in local economic activity," Kellar said.

Poster countered city claims by saying that the fire code is very specific. The code calls for improved fire prevention equipment in new buildings and modified buildings. But it specifically targets movie sets with densely packed structures.

"The regulation speaks specifically to combustible structures that are close together," he said.

Poster also scoffed at the idea that the fire department is trying to drive away the movie business.

"I think the county has always been supportive of filming," he said.

City officials may also be confused about what can be done to change the regulation.

Kellar said the city has planned a meeting with the county fire department to discuss the issue.

However, Poster called the fire code "a done deal," and added that he was not aware of any meeting between County Fire and the city.


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