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Balcony sprinklers to be required for four-storey wood-frame buildings

Aftermath of the Paddington fire. - File photo
Aftermath of the Paddington fire.
— image credit: File photo

The provincial government has announced fire sprinklers will be required on the balconies of all new four-storey wood-frame residential buildings effective July 20.

The update to the BC Building Code comes after the Dec. 11 Paddington Station fire that destroyed the top floor of an upscale multi-unit complex in Langley City, which the fire department blamed on a balcony fire and lack of sprinklers. More than 100 people were left homeless.

“If this building (Paddington) had sprinklers on the balconies and in the attic, this fire likely would not have spread into the attic space,” a report by fire chief Rory Thompson said.

"I’m very pleased that the province is moving in that direction,” City mayor Ted Schaffer said.

“I think it's great for anyone who is going to be looking at one of those residences down the road,” Schaffer added.

In February, Langley City council made a public call for provincial action to require sprinklers.

Under the current BC Building Code, sprinklers generally are not required on balconies or in attics in residential buildings four storeys and under, but are generally required in residential buildings greater than four storeys.

Today’s announcement said the new sprinkler requirements will not take effect until July 20 to allow time for the industry to adapt to the new requirement.

Fort Langley-Aldergrove MLA Rich Coleman, who is the minister responsible for housing, has said work on the revised building code was underway before the City fire that left more than 100 people homeless.

“Although the next edition of our building code won't be adopted until late 2017, we wanted to implement this change as soon as possible, in the interest of safety,” Coleman said Wednesday.

The government announcement said building codes and fire sprinkler standards only apply at the time of construction and cannot be retroactively required on existing buildings.

Don Jolley, first vice-president of Fire Chiefs Association of BC applauded the news.

“This announcement demonstrates a commitment to greater use of fire sprinkler protection initiatives that will prevent significant fire-related losses in the future,” Jolley said.

 

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