Fire destroyed the top floor of Madison Place in Langley City in July 2020 but the entire building had to be avacuated. More than 40 families were displaced by the fire. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)

Fire extinguishers recommended for condo dwellers

Langley Township looked at fire safety in condos after two fires in the City

Local governments can’t mandate changes to sprinklers for condo buildings, in the wake of a second condo-destroying fire, according to the Township’s fire chief.

Earlier this summer, Township Councillor Bob Long asked whether the Township could order that condos be retrofitted with sprinklers, or equipped with fire extinguishers on upper balconies.

The request came after the fire that gutted Madison Place on 56th Avenue in mid-July.

That was the second fire in recent years to destroy a large portion of a condo building in Langley. The Paddington Station fire on Fraser Highway in the winter of 2016 destroyed dozens of homes as well.

Both fires, noted Long, came from the same cause – the fires started on an upper-floor balcony where there was no sprinkler, and spread into the roof, and from there into the rest of the building.

“It is the most vulnerable place for a fire to start,” Long said.

READ MORE: Fire guts Langley City apartment building

READ MORE: Little left for residents to salvage following Paddington Station fire

It was the Paddington fire that prompted the B.C. government to make a change to the B.C. Building Codes, however.

By March of 2017, the province had announced that any condo building of four storeys or more would require sprinklers on balconies and in attics. Taller condos had already required such sprinklers.

However, Madison Place was built before 2017, as were thousands of other condo units around B.C.

After Long asked about sprinkler upgrades, Township fire chief Stpehen Gamble responded by noting that local governments and fire departments have no authority to retroactively upgrade local buildings.

He noted that there were a few things strata councils could do, including banning smoking on balconies, or not allowing barbecues, heaters, or candles on balconies.

Every homeowner should also have at least one ABC fire extinguisher, the chief noted.

Long said the Township could encourage more education on the issue as well.

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