August 23, 2016 7:57 pm
Updated: August 24, 2016 2:38 am

Smoking on balcony may have led to Surrey townhouse fire

Nearly 100 people have been forced out of their homes, following a major fire at an apartment building in Surrey on Sunday Aug. 21, 2016.

Courtesy of Shane McKichan

Surrey fire investigators suspect smoking may be the cause of a massive weekend townhouse fire.

The fire started on a balcony and quickly spread to the roof of the complex, leaving many occupants homeless.

The incident has raised the issue of how to prevent balcony fires.

Surrey Fire Assistant Chief Steve Robinson says balconies were the building’s “Achilles’ heel.”

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Surrey has recently seen three large fires that started on balconies, including a blaze last September that left several families homeless.

A University of the Fraser Valley study found close to 10 per cent of multi-residential building fires originated in an outside area such as a balcony or deck.

The report said such fires are less likely to activate a smoke alarm and more likely to need a visual sighting.

The report, which has been sent to the provincial government, called for building code changes to extend sprinkler protection and smoke alarms to balconies.

In a statement, the Housing Ministry says sprinkler standards will be considered in the next edition of the BC Building Code.

It points out a change in standards does not apply retroactively to existing buildings, due to the cost of adapting older buildings to higher standards.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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