After several instances of fires on multi-unit residential balconies in British Columbia, calls for changes to the building code have started popping up.
For example, last month a fire on a balcony in Kelowna started as a result of apropane barbeque and caused significant damage to the condominium building. According to some, including Surrey’s fire chief Len Garis, these types of fires can be avoided with changes to the provincial building code to include more stringent limits on what can and cannot be stored on a balcony.
A study conducted by University of Fraser Valley and Surrey Fire Services and published last year, Fires that Commence on Balconies of Multi-Residential Buildings: The Importance of an External Fire Area of Origin for Residential Fire Outcomes, was written by Len Garis and strategic planning analyst for the Surrey Fire Service Joseph Clare. It reports nearly 10 per cent of fires in multi-residential structures occur on an outside area—such as a balcony or porch. The suggestions included in the study to improve on these instances include:
- prohibiting storage on outside spaces;
- providing early fire-detection strategies; and
- extending sprinkler protection regulations to cover these areas.
According to principal engineer at CHM Fire Consultants Ltd., and Construction Canada author Steve Craft, PhD, P.Eng., there has been a change in the 2013 National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 13R, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems in Low-rise Residential Occupancies, that should address the issue of balcony fires, at least for low-rise residential buildings.
“The 2013 edition of the sprinkler standard NFPA 13R now requires balconies, such as the one that experienced the fire in Kelowna, to be sprinklered,” he toldConstruction Canada Online. “Therefore, once the building code references the latest edition of the standard, new four-storey wood-frame buildings will see the balconies sprinklered. For five- and six-storey buildings being built in B.C., the balconies are sprinklered because the building code requires the buildings’ sprinkler system be designed according to the more stringent sprinkler standard NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems.”