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Fire-related restrictions on building design lifted in Sidney

Rules for windows, doorways in new builds relaxed with increased firefighter staffing
Changes to firefighting staffing that have standardized response times to structure fires prompted Sidney council to lift certain restrictions on the design of homes and buildings. (Black Press Media file photo)

Restrictions on the design of new homes in Sidney have ended following the provision of new firefighting services.

The town put design-related criteria in place in June 2020, with the Sidney Volunteer Fire Department not having enough staff to guarantee response times to structure fires of less than 10 minutes, 90 per cent of the time.

Those restrictions limited the number of windows and doors on walls facing nearby homes, thereby influencing the design of some new homes in Sidney. Specifically, it impacted single-family homes, duplexes and smaller multi-residential developments, according to a town staff report.

These limits did not impact larger multi-family developments, mixed commercial residential-developments, commercial, industrial and institutional buildings, which requiresprinklers on all floors.

The fire department’s transition to a 24/7 staffing model as of March 13 led to a lifting of the design restrictions. The new model leaves at least two response-ready firefighters at Sidney’s community safety building, augmented by the duty officer.

During the height of the pandemic, the department trialed a temporary staffing plan of two night-shift, in-station firefighters, along with the duty officer, to minimize arriving volunteers congregating and reduce potential for COVID transmission.

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The report states response times for structure-related incidents have not exceeded the 10-minute threshold during two years of in-station staffing. “Therefore, in light of the recently (council) approved 24/7 staffing model, the (department) can state that response time does now meet the spatial separation requirements.”

The BC Building Code describes limiting distance as the distance from an exposing building face to a property line, the center line of a street, lane or public thoroughfare, or to an imaginary line between two buildings or fire compartments on the same property, measured at right angles to the exposing building face.

Related calculations in new construction help determine how many unprotected openings are permitted on a portion of the wall or walls facing property lines.

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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