With the province’s building code likely to change, homeowners and buyers should be educating themselves, says the past president of the Fire Fighters’Association of Ontario.
“People spend a lot of energy, money, and time on things like granite countertops,” said Carl G. Pearson.
Bill 52, which would alter Ontario’s Building Code to allow six-storey wood construction of mid-rise buildings, was put forth by Conservative MPP Victor Fedeli from Nipissing.
Four-storeys are standard; reviving the demand for lumber was driving the Forestry Industry Revitalization Act.
The Bill passed second reading in the Legislature earlier this year, however, it was nixed due to prorogation.
“Hopefully we’ll be the new government, to be blunt, and we’ll be able to bring this to a vote ourselves,” said Fedeli.
Pearson, though, is concerned the new combustible materials will put the public – and firefighters – at risk.
Stone, brick, or block buildings “stand up very well in fire conditions,” Pearson said.
Homebuyers could use these materials to fortify the building or even install sprinklers “instead of worrying about the nickel-plated faucets,” he said.
Fedeli’s bill included fire safety measures such as mandated installation of sprinklers, use of fire-resistant assemblies and compartmentalization of buildings.
Homes built in the last 10 years have greater collapse potential than those constructed in the ’60s and ’70s, said Ottawa Fire spokesman Marc Messier.
Yet there are some advantages to newer homes.
If firefighters become trapped in an apartment and have to cross into another unit, “you can’t breach that wall” in a concrete structure, said Messier, but “you could kick your way through the drywall.”
Residents should contact the fire department and ask, “what are your capabilities?,” Pearson said.
“Access is a huge issue for the fire service,” he said, and new materials have affected the way firefighters approach a blaze.
When battling a blaze, the aim is to confine it, reduce it, and eliminate it, said Pearson.
But they’re more likely to use defensive firefighting from the outside if no occupants are inside — reducing the likelihood of preserving the building and its contents.
“In the end, we just want the public to be aware,” he said.
Fedeli said the Bill has additional benefits.
“If you don’t properly harvest that soft wood, it becomes the fuel for forest fires,” said Fedeli.
“You need to manage the forests, or Mother Nature will.”