Sidney needs more firefighters

Building code changes include costs to construction, fire response times

Building permit applications in the province must now comply with the 2012 edition of the B.C. Building Code, after a deadline of Dec. 19, 2012 has come and gone. In Sidney, town staff have identified two changes with the potential to impact new construction in the community.

According to a staff report from Marlaina Elliott, director of development services, seismic design of new homes and how quickly a fire department can reach them in an emergency are the specific changes that could affect Sidney home builders.

The 2012 seismic code now requires the use of braced wall panels and bands “intended to increase the building’s structural integrity,” states the report.

Potential impacts here include design changes, added costs (expected to be minimal, according to the report), education of the new Code requirement and providing information on those requirements.

The second significant impact in Sidney will be the Code’s addressing of fire protection and department response time. This has to do with the proximity of a house front to a property line (known as a setback).

The town report states, in general, that the closer the front of a building is to a property line, the more fire-resistant it has to be.

The 2012 Code also makes a distinction as to when to apply these requirements, “relative to fire department response time”. Essentially, if a local fire department can arrive at the building within 10 minutes, 90 per cent of the time, more restrictive requirements under the Code might not apply.

According to the report, Sidney fire Chief Jim Tweedhope evaluated historical data to see if the department has been able to meet the 2012 Code requirement and can continue to do so.

“Based on the call-out data, fire Chief Tweedhope has determined that the SVFD meets the 2012 Code requirement for ‘fire department response time’ of ‘10 minutes, 90 per cent of the the time,’” stated Elliott’s report.

Tweedhope found, it continued, that the SVFD was able to respond to an emergency, on average, within 10 minutes, 92.5 per cent of the time.

“The effect of these changes in the Code, does this mean it will impact future plans of putting the ambulance service with the fire service,” asked Coun. Mervyn Lougher-Goodey at council’s Dec. 10 meeting.

Town chief administrative officer Randy Humble said it doesn’t represent a big impact on the “future potential” to combine those emergency services in one location.

Coun. Tim Chad expressed concern on the Code impact on affordable housing on the Peninsula.

“Will this be a large cost added to housing contraction,” he asked.

Coun. Steve Price, who has a background in construction, said a lot of what the Code is asking for is quite simple.

“It’s basically a lot of nails in the right spots,” he said. “I don’t think (the seismic requirements) are a big expense, just more materials.”

Chad said that didn’t help soothe his concern over added costs.

Jim Marshall, the town’s senior building official, said the most challenges with this change will come at the design phase.

“Actual costs are hard to say in the report right now,” he explained. “But yes, it will require more (building materials), but the largest impact is on the design of buildings.”

As the staff report was for information on the B.C. Building Code changes and compliance, council received it and put into motion the town’s plan to develop an article for the Town Talk newsletter and a notice on the website. Staff will also develop other public information for residents and builders.

Challenges for the fire department

While the Sidney Volunteer Fire Department (SVFD) meets B.C. Building Code response time requirements when it comes to fire protection issues, the local department faces challenges in fighting fires once they arrive during the day.

In staff’s building code update report to Sidney town council on Dec. 10, it is noted the SVFD is challenged to meet the National Fire Protection Association 1710 criteria that identifies adequate personnel and apparatus needed to fight fires. The basic outline is four firefighters per apparatus (truck).

The challenge, states the report, is that Sidney is a volunteer department and is without the minimum required number of firefighters during the day to respond to a call.

“The majority of Sidney’s volunteer firefighters do not work in Sidney and therefore, are not available to respond to calls during the day,” stated the report.

The report also mentions the possibility of creating a composite fire department, with some full-time firefighters and a volunteer component to help daytime response.

In recent months, the SVFD has advertised for new recruits to help shore up their numbers.

 

 

 

 

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