City’s fire protection law being threated by province

The province intends to implement changes to the BC Building Code that will minimize Campbell River's ability to protect people from fire

The province intends to implement changes to the BC Building Code that will minimize the city’s ability to protect people in the event of a fire, says one councillor.

That’s because the B.C. government has served notice it is working towards a uniform building code that will eliminate municipalities’ authority to write its own standards.

Coun. Claire Moglove said at last week’s Tuesday council meeting that it will threaten the city’s sprinkler regulations which require residential buildings with more than two units and commercial buildings to be outfitted with an indoor fire suppression system.

“This purports to take away the right of local governments to have a building code, or aspects of their building code, which are greater than what will be in the provincial building code,” Moglove said.

“This has specific ramifications for our sprinkler bylaw.”

There are 30 other local governments across B.C. that also have local fire sprinkler requirements, including the City of Pitt Meadows whose mayor wrote a letter that was before Campbell River council last week.

Pitt Meadows Mayor Deb Walters wrote that her city has seen positive results with sprinkler requirements that have enhanced public safety, reduced fire service costs, and dramatically reduced fire losses, both human and structural.

“Removal of the ability of local governments with such bylaw or policy provisions to continue to ensure such efficient and effective service is unacceptable without an alternative solution that, at minimum, provides them with equal or better results to those obtained by the current system,” Walters wrote.

The Fire Chiefs Association of BC says international research evidence shows that use of a fire sprinkler system provides dramatic reduction in loss of life and injuries, according to Don Jolley, first vice-president of the association.

“Installation costs are well within the affordable range for builders and home-owners alike and the added life safety cannot be overstated,” Jolley wrote.

“Fire sprinklers are economical, readily and discreetly installed, highly efficient and most importantly, they save lives.”

Moglove said the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) has formed a working group to look into the issue and come up with possible solutions.

“What we will be looking for is probably some sort of an exemption that would allow local government to continue to have some autonomy as it relates to the fire sprinkler bylaws,” said Moglove who is second vice-president of UBCM.

Moglove noted that it would be a blow to the city to lose the sprinkler requirements which stakeholders worked so hard to come up with.

“Council may remember that our current sprinkler bylaw was a result of significant discussion over many, many years,” Moglove said. “Finally a consensus was reached between the Development Advisory Committee and the fire department on bylaws that were acceptable; so this is really important for the City of Campbell River and other municipalities that we retain our autonomy.”

Council agreed and voted to forward Mayor Walters’ letter to the city’s public safety sub committee, as well as city staff, for comment.