March 30th, 2009 by Residential Fire Sprinklers .com
Edson’s fire chief welcomes the changes recently undertaken by the provincial government to increase fire protection.
While the changes will not affect Edson and area that much, any measure taken to improve security and safety helps, Al Schram said.
“From a fire perspective, anything we can do to make structures safer we fully support.”
The changes announced on March 12 are two years ahead of proposed national code revisions and were lobbied for following Edmonton’s MacEwan Green subdivision fire in 2007 that destroyed 18 homes and damaged 76 others.
Cited as factors in the rapid spread of the fire were high winds, the use of vinyl siding and the close proximity of the structures.
Changes were made to the Alberta Fire Code and the Alberta Building Code.
Fire Code changes include:
• Requiring buildings adjacent to construction sites to be protected from potential fires.
• Requiring enhanced fire safety plans on construction sites to help control fire hazards in and around buildings.
• Clarifying where fire extinguishers should be located on construction sites.
• Improving safety measures for construction processes involving heat sources, such as roofing equipment, in order to prevent these activities from starting fires.
• Improving access to construction sites for fire departments by ensuring that:
- Fire trucks have adequate access to the site to be effective.
- Firefighters can access all parts of a building under construction; and,
- That the appropriate water supply systems are in place to accommodate firefighting.
In the Building Code the following changes will take place:
• Adding new fire resistance requirements for homes built close together:
- New homes with flammable siding, such as vinyl, built close to the property lines will be required to have fire resistant material, such as gypsum board, installed under the siding.
- New homes built close together will have new restrictions on the size and amount of windows allowed facing their neighbours.
• Improving sprinkler or exterior siding requirements for walk-up apartment buildings; and,
• Adding new fire resistant requirements for the interior of attached garages.
Schram said the spacing between buildings is often dictated by municipal land use bylaws. He said the recommendations coming from the codes would hopefully be incorporated into those.
Schram is hoping that residential sprinkler systems will become more of a standard in the future, but right now they’re rare.
“We’re not seeing a lot of that at all. It’s something we’d like to see. If you put a residential sprinkler system in your home, you could save your home real easily.”
Schram added, the costs of such systems are coming down and he’s hopeful that sprinkler systems will one day become part of the building code.
He said residential sprinkler systems are not prevalent, and that he was hard pressed to cite any existing local examples.
Schram said his department is not restricted when it comes to access to structures and good communication and planning with Town of Edson officials help to ensure this. He cited the Hillendale subdivision as one of those examples.
“With Hillendale we were involved in the planning from day one with our town engineers to make sure the streets were going to be adequate and the cul de sacs were going to be big enough. Locally we’re really fortunate we have a really good working relationship with our engineering and planning department — that we are accommodating that stuff.”
Changes to the Fire Code have already taken place. Building Code changes will take effect on May 3.
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