Alberta implementing new fire and building codes

Stricter building and fire codes are being implemented in Alberta to prevent the type of fire that destroyed 18 homes and damaged 76 others in an Edmonton subdivision nearly two years ago.

Stricter building and fire codes are being implemented in Alberta to prevent the type of fire that destroyed 18 homes and damaged dozens more in a south Edmonton subdivision nearly two years ago.

"When it comes to structural fires, time is our enemy," Edmonton fire Chief Ken Block said. "What these changes are going to do is provide a bit more intervention time for our firefighters.

"The frustrating part of the high-intensity fires is we would arrive within the seven-minute time frame and that fire would have spread building to building to the houses on either side of the one that was involved."

The changes to the fire code take effect immediately. The building code changes come into effect on May 3.

Improvements include adding new fire resistance requirements for homes built close together, such as installing fire-resistant material like gypsum board under flammable material like vinyl siding.

New homes built close to each other will also have restrictions on the size and number of windows facing their windows. The interior of garages attached to houses will be required to have items like fire detectors and gypsum wallboard

The province has also changed the Alberta fire code to help prevent fires from starting on construction sites and spreading to nearby homes and businesses.

The changes are being implemented two years ahead of the expected changes to the national fire code.

Massive fire sparks changes

Municipal Affairs Minister Ray Danyluk said the changes could increase costs for homebuilders.

"The cost of this can be from what I would say zero, to possibily eight to $10,000, and we're depending on the size of the house," he said.

Calls for changes to the fire and building codes came after the massive July 2007 fire at the MacEwan Green subdivision.

The fire initially started in a four-storey condominium complex under construction but quickly spread to 18 townhomes, as strong winds fanned the flames. Those homes were destroyed and more than 70 other houses were damaged.

High winds, vinyl siding and close proximity of the homes to one another were cited as a factors in the fire, leading former Edmonton fire chief Randy Wolsey to lead a campaign to get the province to update its building codes.

With files from the Canadian Press