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This is a picture of the top a gas fired water heater, the pipe on the right front is a cold water line, in the middle is the gas vent pipe, the gas vent pipe gets very hot, and can cause combustible materials to ignite, the code requires that no combustible materials should be within 6 inches of the vent pipe, note how close the piece of wood is to the vent pipe. this was installed by a handyman, the wood was not just laying there it was being used as a brace and was secured to the wall, I removed it and installed proper earth quake straps.

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