British Columbia's fire commissioner is "entirely comfortable" with the Campbell administration's controversial decision to allow taller wood-frame buildings. And the "source" of her confidence in that decision is the government's requirement that those buildings be fully sprinklered.
In an exclusively interview with Public Eye, Becky Denlinger said she wasn't familiar with the specific safety concerns about those buildings that have been raised by the fire services liaison group and local fire officials.
Nevertheless, Ms. Denlinger said, "I do know, from an evidence-based perspective, there is virtually no loss of life in structures that have (National Fire Protection Association) 13 systems in them. And, for that reason, I'm very confident this represents the safest standards that can be brought to bear in this situation."
Moreover, Ms. Denlinger said the square footage of the new five and six storey wood-frames will be no more than that of four-storey building, making them almost as easy to exit in the event of a fire. And, for all those reasons, the commissioner said, "The regulations being released will result in buildings built to the safest standards that exist in the world, in fact, and certainly in North America."
Nevertheless, Ms. Denlinger said her office hasn't conducted an independent risk analysis of taller wood-frame buildings. Nor has her office surveyed fire departments across the province to determine if all of them are capable of fighting blazes in wood-frames of that height.
Instead, Ms. Delinger said, "Each jurisdiction, each municipality and each regional district would and should and I believe will undertake a review to see if this type of construction is actually appropriate in their jurisdiction. And I think local governments out there across British Columbia are good at doing this sort of risk vulnerability analysis."
"They include a review of the fire department capabilities that they have available to them," she continued. "And we rely on those local jurisdictions to make good decisions about permitting this kind of construction."