Fire Department salutes sprinkler change in BC Building Code

New requirements to the BC Building Code are mandating fire sprinklers be installed on the balconies of any new four-storey apartments and condos.

Kelowna's Interim Fire Chief Lou Wilde says it's a great move for the province to make, as fires that start on balconies can move very quickly.

"The alarm system for the building only detects smoke or flame inside the building, so there is no fire protection system outside the building," he said.

"So when a fire occurs on a deck, it gets going and it'll be extending to the floor above before we get notified, typically."

Previously, only buildings that were taller than four storeys had to include the balcony sprinklers.

Wilde says a sprinkler wouldn't extinguish a fire, but it would help slow things down.

"A sprinkler system on the exterior of the building would be activated by the heat of the fire. So the sprinklers would keep it at bay, it may extinguish it, but likely not. But it'll keep it to the area of origin which is that balcony," he said.

"There's likely fire damage to the deck itself, but it'll protect the windows that are facing out onto the balcony so that they aren't breached, allowing the fire to enter into the condominium or the apartment unit."

Wilde says he specifically remembers back in 2013, when multiple balcony fires caused significant damage to properties in town.

The biggest was at the 64-unit Legacy Apartments in Rutland, which lost its entire roof in a major fire.

Then Fire Chief Jeff Carlisle told council that fires on balconies with no sprinklers could spread about two-and-a-half times faster than if it started inside.