Fire investigators used a crane for a closer look at the extent of the fire damage to the Paddingon Station building in Langley in December. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Times)

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

The provincial regulations come into effect on July 20

Story by Dan Ferguson

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.

“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.

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 take effect on July 20, 2017 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, 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.

More to come.

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