During the last Christmas season, many residents of the four-storey Paddington Station apartment complex were displaced due to a massive fire that spread from a balcony to the attic space of the building. The scope of damage caused by this fire could have been limited.
Currently, the BC Building Code requires sprinklers on balconies and in attic spaces of five-storey or taller residential buildings. As our Langley City Fire Chief Rory Thompson stated, “Sprinklers on the balconies would have prevented this tragedy [at Paddington Station].”
This is why Langley City Council passed the following motion in early February:
WHEREAS in 2016 the Province of British Columbia has suffered numerous large loss fires in 4-storey wood frame multi-residential buildings that could have been mitigated by the installation of sprinklers on balconies;
AND WHEREAS the British Columbia Building Code is based on the National Building Code with modifications specific to BC and that the National Building Code (2015) requires the installation of sprinklers on balconies of 4-storey buildings;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Minister Responsible for Housing immediately issue a Ministerial Order requiring the installation of sprinklers on the balconies of all new wood frame 4-storey multi-residential buildings.
I’m pleased that the provincial government took note, and that effective July 20, 2017, fire sprinklers will be required to be installed on the balconies of all new four-storey wood-frame residential buildings.
For some background, the National Fire Protection Association's latest standard on sprinklers, NFPA 13R, states that “where a roof or deck is provided above, sprinklers shall be installed to protect attached exterior balconies, attached exterior decks, and ground floor patios serving dwelling units in buildings of Construction Type V.” Type V construction means wood-framed buildings.