A local fire official hopes that a new regulation associated with B.C.’s Building Act will pave the way for municipalities to adopt new enhanced sprinkler regulations.

Don Jolley, Pitt Meadows fire chief and vice president of the Fire Chiefs Association of B.C., hopes the regulation will encourage local governments to make sprinklers mandatory in new homes.

The regulation wouldn’t be mandatory, but it would replace the sprinkler by-laws that currently exist in some municipalities. Communities that don't currently have sprinkler by-laws can decide whether to adopt the pre-written sprinkler regulation. 

The Fire Chiefs Association is working with the Officer of the Fire Commissioner and the Building and Safety Standards Branch on drafting the regulation, which would work in conjunction with the B.C. Building Code. 

There are currently 30 local governments, including Vancouver, that already have fire sprinkler by-laws. However, the province suspended more laws from being passed in the early 2000s because there was no uniform standard for sprinkler regulations. Passed in 2015, Building Act includes a section about consistency across local governments, addressing the issue of standards and opening the door for new by-laws. The Building Act applies in all parts of B.C. except Vancouver, federal lands, and reserves. Jolley said he hopes local governments will adopt the regulation making sprinklers mandatory.

“I’m an advocate for fire sprinklers in all residential properties,” he said. “I think every place where people sleep should have a fire sprinkler.”

A report from the University of the Fraser Valley in 2012 found that death and injury were significantly less frequent in buildings that had sprinklers. The report also stated that the odds of dying in a fire in a building without sprinklers were nearly 12 times higher than in buildings with sprinklers.

But even though evidence shows sprinklers can save lives, Jolley says that a lot of negative and inaccurate depictions in film and television of how sprinklers work could be preventing some people from installing them out of fear they’re overly sensitive and will cause water damage.

“There’s a lot of myths out there,” he said. “Unfortunately a lot of Hollywood and television demonstrates fire sprinklers in a way that is absolutely untrue,” he said.

Movies often show someone holding a match up to a single sprinkler head, which then sets off the rest of the heads in the building, which Jolley says is unrealistic.

“It does not happen. Only the one head goes off,” he said. He also says that just setting off the fire alarm will not trigger the sprinkler system, and they are not as sensitive as people may think. Jolley says it takes at least 65 C to set them off.

“They save lives, bottom line. Firefighters and public,” he said.

Homeowner Ashley Pavich lives in Pitt Meadows and says she had a sprinkler installed in almost every room in her new house.

“It really gives us security and a safe feeling,” she said.

Pavich also says she gets a 10 per cent discount on her homeowner’s insurance. The systems can cost up to $1.30 per square foot or about $4,000 to install in a 3,000 square-foot home.

“They’re very reliable. They’re very cost effective,” said Jolley. “And they should be in every home.”