PEI

Fire department wants more sprinklers in Charlottetown

Following a fire that destroyed an apartment building in the capital, Charlottetown Fire Department is advocating for more sprinklers to be added to city apartments.

Charlottetown looking into fire bylaws after huge apartment fire

'I believe the outcome would have been different if we had a sprinkler system throughout the building,' says Charlottetown Fire Chief Randy MacDonald. (Samantha Juric/CBC)

Following a fire that destroyed an apartment building in the capital, Charlottetown Fire Department is advocating for more sprinklers to be added to city apartments.

The fire department will look at the city's bylaws to see if and where additional provisions regarding sprinklers — over and above the requirements of the 2015 National Building Code — could be added, city officials said in an email.

The department plans to draft something to bring to committee and council to consider, the email said.

Charlottetown Fire Chief Randy MacDonald confirmed the building at 10 Harley St. is a total loss and that there was no sprinkler system beyond the basement parking garage.

"I believe the outcome would have been different if we had a sprinkler system throughout the building," MacDonald said Wednesday.

Sprinklers not required to meet code

The requirement for a sprinkler system in a residential building is based on the number of storeys, the type of construction and the building area.

Generally, a three-storey residential building is not required to have sprinklers unless it exceeds the building-area limits, officials with the city said in an email to CBC.

None of the residents in the building were injured and all have found temporary housing. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

The fire at Harley Street on Wednesday started in mulch outside the building, Charlottetown Fire Inspector Winston Bryan said previously.

Deputy Fire Chief Tim Mamye said though the fire did start on the exterior of the building it made entry "one way or another" into one of the units.

The building was up to code but if the burned units had sprinklers it would "have immediately had an effect on the fire — the growth and spread of the fire," Mamye told CBC News: Compass host Louise Martin earlier this week.

It's unfortunate that building was not protected by automatic sprinklers.— Peter Simpson

Another person calling for change in the National Building Code to require all new residential buildings to have sprinklers is a volunteer firefighter from Nova Scotia, Peter Simpson. He is also the former head of the Greater Vancouver Home Builders Association.

"It's unfortunate that building was not protected by automatic sprinklers which would have likely knocked that fire down," Simpson said. It seems so strange, he said, that the only floor with sprinklers in the apartment building was a "concrete parking garage."

Nova Scotia volunteer firefighter Peter Simpson says there is one argument for not putting sprinklers in a home: 'Money, that's it.' (Peter Simpson)

Simpson said the code needs to change because right now only residential buildings four storeys or higher have to have sprinklers, though he said there are some exceptions depending on the location of the building.

Simpson said he thinks all homes should have sprinklers including "single-family homes, townhouses, everything."

Other side of the argument

However, when Simpson was head of the association in Vancouver he argued for the opposite.

He said there was only one argument for not putting sprinklers in a home: "money, that's it.

"I was wrong, and quite frankly I was embarrassingly wrong," he said. 

Charlottetown Fire Inspector Winston Bryan says there could have been something introduced to the mulch to ignite the fire that destroyed the apartment building. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs said it had no one available for an interview but directed CBC News to its website, which states its position on sprinklers.

"The CAFC and its members believe that sprinkler systems save lives. We'd like to see them in all new buildings. We are working actively at the national level to encourage changes to the National Building Code to require mandatory residential fire sprinklers," the association's website states.

CBC News also reached out to the National Research Council which is responsible for updating the national building code, but was told it could be a couple weeks before someone is available for an interview.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Island Morning

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