Although there currently isn’t legislation to enforce his position, Kelowna fire chief Jeff Carlisle is strongly suggesting the Legacy II apartment building is retrofitted with sprinklers on balconies and in the attic space.
Carlisle told reporters Wednesday the Legacy building, which was severely damaged by fire Tuesday, was built to the B.C. building code standard. He stated B.C. fire chiefs desire to change that standard to require sprinklers on balconies and in the attic space of similar buildings.
On Thursday he reiterated his position by shedding light on his own experience.
“In my career I can count about 15 or 20 of these structures that I’ve been to that have had essentially the same type of scenario where the fire starts on the outside of the building because the balconies are not sprinklered,” said Carlisle.
Carlisle pointed to a report published by the University of Fraser Valley, with the expertise of Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis and Dr. Joseph Clare.
“The report identifies that out of 2,638 multi-residential building (fires) of this type, 10 per cent of them occurred on the balconies,” said Carlisle.
The report indicated the damage associated with outside fires was 2.4 times greater than the average loss associated with all other multi-residential structure fires.
Without a sprinkler system or alarm on the decks of the building, the fire department is immediately on the defensive upon arrival, Carlisle added.
“Ninety-nine per cent of all fires will be extinguished by a sprinkler. A sprinkler on a balcony will out-perform the fire department every single time.”
Carlisle said he believes Kelowna can “take the lead” on this issue that has been a complaint of fire chiefs across the country for years.
Until the code changes, Carlisle said he doesn’t encourage smoking or the use of propane barbecues on balconies.
“We’ve had four of these fires in the last 30 months in Kelowna and the devastation and the loss to the residents’ is significant.”
The B.C. building code requires buildings that are five-storeys or higher to be equipped with balcony sprinklers; the Legacy apartment building was four-storeys.
Whether or not Tuesday’s Legacy apartment fire was due to mechanical failure or human error has yet to be determined.
Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital has offered its services for anyone who needs medical assistance for their pets.
Members of the public wishing to donate funds to assist the victims of both the Legacy apartment and Bristol apartment fires are encouraged to contact the local branch of the Canadian Red Cross at 250-491-8443.