As Kelowna builds high-rises taller than ever before, concerns are being raised about fighting tower fires.
The union representing the city’s firefighters is worried about staffing levels.
The president of the Kelowna Professional Fire Fighters Association said the city’s current commitment to having at least 23 firefighters on shift doesn’t meet the National Fire Protection Association standard for a high-rise fire response.
“The NFPA standard for high-rise fire is 42 firefighters within 10 minutes,” said Troy Mamchur, president of Kelowna Professional Fire Fighters Association.
The union president acknowledges staffing for a worst-case scenario could be expensive, but he thinks it’s an expense worth considering.
“If there was a fire that the sprinkler system couldn’t handle for whatever reason….it’s tough to say what the effects would be,” Mamchur said.
“Certainly it would be dangerous for all involved, both firefighters entering the building and occupants of the building.”
However, the city’s fire chief is confident in his current staff’s ability to respond to high-rises.
“Our department is professionally trained, professionally equipped and ready to respond to whatever occurs in the city,” Fire Chief Travis Whiting said.
Whiting is not ruling out asking for more firefighters in the future if the department’s annual review shows a need for it.
“The city has done a good job in helping us grow to meet the needs of the city. As we continue to grow and as these buildings go up, we will continue to evaluate our needs and requirements for firefighters,” Whiting said.
What the fire department is emphasizing is fire prevention for every building that goes up in Kelowna.
“Our fire prevention officer and his staff are heavily engaged in the building process and ensuring that all the requirements of the building code and fire code are met, which really give us the ability to better respond to these buildings,” Whiting said.