Code change could have stopped fire

Kelowna's fire chief says the Legacy 2 condo didn't have to go up in flames.

Jeff Carlisle believes a simple change to BC's Building Code could have saved the building and hundreds before it.

Carlisle, speaking to assembled media at the city's main fire hall, says a change to the code making sprinklers mandatory throughout four storey buildings including on balconies and in the roof assembly would save many of these buildings.

At the present time, the BC Building Code requires all encompassing sprinkling systems in buildings higher than four storeys.

Carlisle says a report published by the University of the Fraser Valley states that of 2,638 multi-residential buildings of this type (four storey or less), in 10 per cent of the cases fires have occurred on the balconies.

"The sprinkler systems and alarm systems are designed to deal with fires that occur within the building," says Carlisle.

"We have tried to get sprinkling into the bylaw. The building standards branch denied that because we don't have the authority to exceed the building code."

Carlisle says he hopes to be able to change that.

While both the BC and Canadian Fire Chiefs associations have tried for years to change the code with no success, Carlisle says he hopes political pressure from the City of Kelowna will help the cause.

"They (Kelowna council) have been in touch with me and they want a synopsis of what occurred here and what our steps are," says Carlisle.

"I am going to recommend to them that, from a political level, they start lobbying the UBCM (Union of BC Municipalities) to get changes to the building code for these up to four storey buildings."

Over the last 30 months Kelowna has experienced four fires similar to the one at the Legacy 2 on Tuesday.

Carlisle says the devastation and loss to the residents is significant.

He says a complete sprinkler system would make all the difference.

"Ninety-nine per cent of all fires will be extinguished by a sprinkler. A sprinkler on a balcony will out perform a fire department every single time," says Carlisle who believes balcony sprinklers would have doused Tuesday's fire before it started.

Carlisle says he will meet with representatives of the Legacy 2 next week in hopes of convincing them of the need to exceed the sprinkler requirements when they rebuild the complex.

Meantime, Carlisle also believes people should refrain from barbequing or smoking on apartment balconies.

While he believes barbequing and smoking are legitimate uses of an apartment balcony, he would discourage the practice.

"That would be a good first step. I am going to try and influence that as well," added Carlisle.

"There are a number of strategies here. One, prohibit the use of propane barbecues on balconies is the first step. Prohibit smoking on balconies is an even bigger step, but it's tough to do that if we can't engineer sprinklers on the balconies to stop this type of fire from occurring."

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