BCAB #1074A - Decision #1074, Fire Fighting Access

June 27, 1989

BCAB #1074A

Re: Decision #1074, Fire Fighting Access

With reference to your letter of May 8, 1989, regarding Appeal #1074. Before dealing with the request for elaboration of our decision we would point out that we have no knowledge of the Montemurro case which you mention, it may, or may not involve similar circumstances. We deal with each issue purely on the basis of the information submitted. Appeal #1074 included what we felt was adequate background for the decision reached on that occasion. Subsequent to your letter we have reviewed the rationale for the decision, and find no reason to modify the statements made.

To deal with your specific request for a further explanation it may first be preferable for us to correct what is a common misconception with respect to the Building Code; from your letter it seems that this may be a cause of concern. The Code is a flexible document, structural and similar requirements may be precisely indicated, but much of the Code deals with other standards of performance considered necessary to provide acceptable levels of safety, under normally anticipated conditions. Other conditions may be encountered, and different methods found necessary to provide the same levels of safety, but not necessarily in the same manner, as those included in the Code. The end target is life safety, not rigid adherence to requirements which may not have been written to accommodate a specific situation. This is indicated to some degree in Section 2.5, but also in different areas of the Code.

With respect to the question under review, Article requires access to each building for firefighting purposes. It also refers to A-, which emphasizes the need for flexibility in dealing with this issue to achieve the necessary result. A- is an explanation of Article, and Sentence indicates some criteria which are considered applicable under normal circumstances.

Included in these is a reference to a clear width of at least 6 m, which is even narrower than the 20 feet mentioned in your letter. Other criteria are intended to deal with points which the authors felt to be critical for a normal type of situation and equipment. Basically this leaves you with the necessity for a judgement decision, taking into account the specific characteristics of the site in question, and the capabilities of the firefighting equipment available for use in your municipality, taking into account the inherent flexibility indicated earlier. In our decision, as stated above, we indicated that you had sufficient authority to accept the existing side lane as firefighting access, provided that you were satisfied as to its adequacy for that purpose. We feel that the background explanation given should satisfy your concerns in this regard.

Regarding your concern over the question of establishing a precedent, we do not regard this as an obstacle. The specific case under review involved an existing building, and it would be difficult to support that while it legally existed in the past, on a basis acceptable to yourselves, the rebuilding would change the firefighting access situation. The approaches to other sites appear to be municipal property, whether or not this is developed, and if you are dissatisfied as to access characteristics, we assume that you would refuse to grant building permits. Undoubtedly you will be involved in judgmental decisions, possibly not always popular, but this would seem to be unavoidable. We will be pleased to render any assistance, within the limitations of our legislated functions.

J.C. Currie, Chair