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The Department of Community Affairs has amended the regulations for the temporary use of commercial farm buildings as special amusement buildings, or haunted houses. These types of buildings represent a unique hazard and the rule amendment does not lessen the requirements for these uses.  

The new rule allows commercial farm buildings to be used as a special amusement for no more than 15 days in a calendar year with the issuance of a Fire Code permit by the local Fire Official.  If a farmer chooses to use the Special Amusement for a period longer that 15 days in the calendar year, it is considered a change in the character of the use and the building is required to comply with the building and fire requirements contained in the Change of Use section of the Rehabilitation Subcode of the Uniform Construction Code. 

To be used temporarily as a special amusement building (for no more than 15 days in one calendar year), the farm building must have a hard-wired automatic fire detection system; an emergency public address system that is audible throughout the entire special amusement building; lighted exit signs; and approved directional signs.  The interior wall and ceiling finishes are required to be Class I.  Class I wall finish is typically gypsum wallboard or other non-combustible finish material.  Also there is a requirement for the farm building to be used temporarily as a special amusement building to be provided with an automatic fire sprinkler system, however, there is one exception for the temporary use. 

The use of a non-sprinklered building or space is permitted provided that all of the following conditions are met:  (1) the special amusement is limited to 1,000 square feet of total building area or a 1,000 square feet portion of the building that is separated from the remainder of the building by a wall that is fire resistance rated one-hour (a typical one-hour wall is steel framed with 5/8 Type X gypsum on both sides of the wall and any openings (doors or windows) in the wall are required to be protected with rated doors or shutters); (2) the maximum exit access travel distance is 50 feet (the travel distance is measured from the point furthest from the exit door to the exit door); (3) the special amusement is located on the ground floor; (4) a 20 feet perimeter suitable for fire-fighting ground operation is provided; and (5) sufficient fire department personnel and apparatus is standing by on the site at all times the special amusement is occupied. 

These exceptions for fire sprinklers are only applicable when the commercial farm building is being used as a special amusement for no more than 15 days in one calendar year.  If the building is being used for a longer period of time, the sprinkler system is mandatory.   

These provisions are not applicable to outdoor hayrides unless during the hayride the wagon enters the farm building.

For additional information on the UCC requirements, contact DCA’s Code Assistance Unit at (609) 984-7609 and for any questions on the Uniform Fire Code requirements, contact the Division of Fire Safety at (609) 633-6100.