Oshawa firefighters’ union pushing for changes at construction sites, following $6 million fire

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Image from Oshawa Fire Department's Facebook page

By Robin MacLennan

Ontario Construction News staff writer

In the wake of a $6 million fire at an under-construction multi-unit building in Oshawa last June, city council and the local firefighters’ union are pushing for safety changes at wood frame building construction sites.

The June 9 fire destroyed a four-storey, 14-unit building under construction at 143 Bloor St. W. It was called of the biggest and hottest fires faced by Oshawa firefighters in recent years, sparked a second blaze through flying embers and is under investigation by the Ontario Fire Marshal and Durham Regional Police.

The entire shell of the building, except for a concrete stairwell, was destroyed and the heat melted exterior cladding on a nearby house and damaged nearby balconies.

“As the June 9 fire showed, fires in wood frame buildings, in particular those under construction, burn unexpectedly large and hot and have the potential to be extremely dangerous to firefighters and to the public,” said Peter Dyson, Oshawa Professional Fire Fighters Association president.

City council passed a motion after the fire, asking the province to review safety guidelines during construction of wood frame multi-storey buildings. Currently, recommendations include security fencing and an on-site security guard during non-construction hours, overnight and on weekends. However, they only apply to five and six-storey wood buildings

Council noted that Ontario is contemplating permitting 12-storey buildings with wood construction, and asked that guidelines apply to four-storey buildings as well.

“The city’s chief building official and fire chief “strongly believe that the potential changes need to be reviewed and implemented by the province to better protect safety . . . at buildings that are four storeys or higher that are under construction and made of wood, including a requirement for 24-hour security during the construction period,” the council motion stated.

Dyson supports stricter regulations, but he wants more action from the city.

“Fires in wood frame buildings, in particular those under construction, burn unexpectedly large and hot and have the potential to be extremely dangerous to firefighters and to the public,” Dyson said.

Oshawa Fire called in reinforcements from neighbouring municipalities to fight the June fire, and Dyson said he wants to see an increase in frontline resources in Oshawa.

“Firefighters aren’t opposed to construction, but in the wake of this summer’s fire, we agree it’s worth reviewing the safety regulations and guidelines that govern wood frame structures.

“However, our main assertion is that cities like Oshawa should have enough frontline fire department resources available to protect the types of construction they allow. This is not only good for firefighters and public safety, but beneficial to builders as well.”

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