Should B.C. keep allowing propane barbecues on balconies?
Published Wednesday, June 13, 2018 6:40PM PDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 13, 2018 6:55PM PDT
Questions are being raised about the dangers of propane tanks on balconies after a fire in North Vancouver's Lynn Valley that left a mother and her young son dead this week.
The cause is still under investigation, but it appears that exploding propane tanks made matters much worse when flames erupted at Mountain Village Garden Apartments early Monday morning.
"You saw the size of the fireball that was caused by what I think was probably a 20-pound propane cylinder, so you can imagine what would be caused by anything bigger and how dangerous it is to have firefighters within the vicinity of that," Vancouver Fire Capt. Jonathan Gormick told CTV News Wednesday.
Sohail Koshkoye Delshad, who lost his mother and seven-year-old brother in the blaze, said an exploding propane tank almost killed his father too.
After Delshad had jumped out of a window in a bedroom of his second-storey apartment and onto a trampoline below, he looked up and saw his father on the balcony. He urged his dad to jump down to safety.
"As soon as he jumped, the propane tank exploded," the 14-year-old said. "If he didn't, I'd be in a different situation right now."
Delshad's father survived the fall, but suffered severe burns and is expected to remain in hospital for several weeks.
The blaze injured 16 other people and displaced many more.
Delshad said he wanted to speak to media after seeing errors in previous media coverage. He wanted everyone to know how his mother refused to leave his brother's side, his father tried to save them, and how his extended family is helping him cope with the loss.
Despite the danger they pose to residents and first responders in the event of a fire, propane-powered barbecues are allowed on B.C. balconies.
Individual stratas and building operators do have the authority to ban their use, but Mountain Village was not one of those.
The province did change its code last year to require sprinklers on the balconies of residential buildings up to four storeys in height. The rule, however, only applies at the time of construction and doesn't require the owners of older buildings to perform upgrades.
A 2013 report co-authored by Surrey's fire chief recommended the province revisit rules surrounding propane on balconies, but didn't result in any changes.
"It's an unfortunate hazard, but one that can't be avoided, so we just have to adjust our tactics accordingly," Gormick said. "We expect that residences will have a propane-powered barbecue of some kind, or a natural gas one."
The captain encourages barbecue users to follow the manufacturer's instructions and to keep the appliance and fuel at least three metres away from any kind of combustible material.
Gormick said residents should also make sure all of the equipment is in good working order.
"If you have any doubts, replace it or have it checked by a professional," he said.
Barbecue users should also check for municipal bylaws that might apply in addition to provincial fire codes as well as specific rules within their strata.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Sheila Scott