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Lethbridge firefighters concerned by Alberta’s decision to allow 12-storey wooden buildings

Lethbridge firefighters concerned by Alberta now allowing for 12-storey wooden buildings
Firefighters across the province are voicing their concerns over the Alberta government's decision to allow for the construction of 12-storey wood buildings. However, Build Alberta says this change to the provincial code is also expected to be made at the national level in about a year. Taz Dhaliwal has the details.

Firefighters across the province are sounding the alarm and asking the Alberta government to hit pause on a building code change.

The change will allow for the construction of 12-storey buildings using fire-resistant wood material.

“Anytime you add fuel load to any type of building, obviously it adds concern to us, especially during construction,” said Lethbridge Chief Fire Marshal Heath Wright.

“It’s not so much after the building is completed, it’s during construction and with adding that many storeys with open timber, combustible construction concerns us just because of the fuel load.”

READ MORE: Firefighters’ group voices concern over Alberta’s go-ahead to construct 12-storey wood buildings

Wright points out that fire-resistant materials can still burn, just at a delayed and much slower rate.

Currently, Alberta building codes only allow for wood buildings to be constructed up to a height of six storeys.

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Wright says when it comes to construction plans in Lethbridge, the fire department is often brought in during the planning process.

“We actually are consulted by the contractor, so we have a close relationship with contractors to go over the plan,” Wright said.

“We don’t approve it ever..but we definitely go over it.”

READ MORE: B.C. becomes 1st Canadian province to allow mass timber towers up to 12 storeys: premier

Bild Alberta says this building code change is also something the federal government is looking to bring in within a year or so.

“Going through that code process is incredibly extensive, it has to go through the national research council and then it has to go through codes Canada which really involves a diverse group of stakeholders,” said Scott Fash, executive director of Bild Alberta.

“One of them would [be] the Canadian association of fire chiefs who are an absolutely key stakeholder.”

The Alberta government says more than a dozen building and fire organizations were consulted on the changes that are expected to be implemented in early April.

Lethbridge firefighters climb 110 flights of stairs in memory
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