Fire Fighting in Canada

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Comment: June 2019

May 22, 2019 
By Grant Cameron

I shouldn’t have to write this really, but I will because it’s worth repeating. Sprinklers save lives. Period. End of story.
That’s why I’m astounded that automatic sprinkler systems are not yet compulsory in all new home builds.

The Canadian Comm-ission on Building and Fire Codes recently rejected requests to mandate the practice – for now at least, as members were not convinced sprinklers were really needed.

Currently, the National Building Code does not require new residential structures to have automatic sprinkler systems. Provincial codes reflect the standards that are set at the national level. In Canada, only some parts of British Columbia and a few other areas in other provinces require sprinklers in new homes.

The deaths of seven children in a house fire in Halifax in February certainly underscores the need for sprinklers in all new homes. Duncan Rydall, chief fire prevention officer for the Town of The Blue Mountains, Ont., rightly told The Toronto Star that the deaths are undeniable reasons that the Building Code must be changed, as fire sprinklers in the home potentially could have saved the children.


Rydall figures the cost of sprinkler installation at the time of a home’s construction is about $1.50 per square foot, or $3,000 on a 2,000-square-foot home.

Modern homes are more toxic and combustible than ever and contents burn hotter and faster. This can create fatal conditions in as quickly as two minutes from the first signal of a smoke alarm. However, it often takes firefighters up to 10 minutes to arrive on scene. By that time, fires can spread and kill.

The Canadian Automatic Sprinkler Association notes that home fire sprinklers can extinguish a fire in less time than it would take the fire department to arrive on scene. Nationwide, the association estimates that more than 300 people die in fires each year and that installing both smoke alarms and a fire sprinkler system reduces the risk of death in a home fire by 82 per cent.

Similarly, a study by the University of the Fraser Valley in British Columbia found that having a residential sprinkler system can reduce your chance of dying in a home fire by 79 per cent.

The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, for one, has been working at the national level to encourage changes to the Building Code to include fire sprinklers. A number of other organizations have also recommended residential sprinklers in all new construction.

To me, mandating residential sprinklers in new home builds is a no-brainer.

Strengthening the federal code, and making it law to have sprinklers installed in new homes, and encouraging provinces to adopt these public safety standards, just seems the right thing to do.

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