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Fire sprinkler averts major downtown blaze


The Sechelt fire department is praising the use of fire sprinklers, which averted a major fire in downtown Sechelt last Thursday afternoon.

Fire Chief Bill Higgs said the fire occurred just after lunch on Feb. 19 at a residential apartment building when a pot of grease was left on a stove unattended.

“Upon arrival it was observed that a fire had occurred in the kitchen of a second-floor suite,” Higgs said. “The heat from the blaze had activated just one sprinkler head, which extinguished the fire. The fire department was automatically called by the monitored sprinkler/fire alarm system and the residents were alerted to the fire by the alarm bells. We were on scene within five minutes and quickly learned that we were only needed to ventilate the building and begin cleanup.”

Higgs said the fire had the potential for catastrophic life and property losses.

“Thankfully, this fire occurred in a building protected by fire sprinklers and therefore had been completely extinguished by the automatic system that had been installed throughout the building,” he said.

In less than an hour, the 17 volunteer firefighters and four fire trucks had returned to the fire hall. No civilian or firefighter injuries occurred.

“Only one tenant was displaced from the building for a couple of days, and everyone else reoccupied their suites that day,” Higgs said. “The total dollar loss to the $3-million structure was less than $5,000. Had this fire occurred in a similar unsprinklered building, at least three other fire departments from the Sunshine Coast would have been called to assist with the suppression effort, lasting at least half a day, with the follow-up investigation, demolition and rebuilding lasting months.”

The Sechelt fire department recommends the installation of fire sprinklers to all building owners ranging from single-family homes right up to multi-family or commercial buildings, new and old.

“At less than $1.50 a square foot in new construction, why not?” Higgs asked. “Come and see us to learn what we have witnessed about the community cost saving benefits of automatic fire sprinklers in our town of just 12,000 people. We encourage others to learn from our experiences and to support our efforts in the promotion and continued use of commercial and residential fire sprinkler systems.”