White Rock’s fire safety assessment upgraded

Fire Underwriters Survey gives some of highest marks in Canada to city

White Rock’s rating for public fire protection has received a significant upgrade.

At Monday’s council meeting, fire Chief Phil Lemire cited results of an independent Fire Underwriters Survey of the city’s fire-protection system.

While the city retained the same Grade 1 standing in dwelling protection it has received since 2001, it has jumped two points upward to a Class 2 in public fire protection, one of only two communities nationally in the 15,000-to-25,000 population range to achieve this level.

Lemire’s report cited “ongoing improvements to the water distribution system and storage capacity,” as being one of the key elements to the improved classification, along with the long-term effects of the city’s fire sprinkler bylaw, and the implementation of recommendations on fire prevention and public education programs provided as part of the last survey, in 2009.

Mayor Wayne Baldwin was swift to interpret the results as an endorsement of council policy.

“(They) verify what we have believed for several years, that the investment of $11 million into our water-distribution system would greatly increase our firefighting capabilities over what we had with a privately owned utility,” he said.

“This is a testament to the benefits of public ownership and of council following the advice of professionals, both consultants and our own staff.

“As a privately-owned utility, the government-approved mandate was primarily two-fold. First, to make money for the owners, and second, to distribute water to the city for domestic purposes. Firefighting was not a primary concern.”

The utility only installed fire hydrants, he said, when and where the city asked, and at the city’s expense. Subsequently, he added, the utility would charge the city an annual fee for hydrants well above the maintenance costs.

“In the face of extreme criticism and opposition, council steadfastly followed the advice of educated professionals, including both consultants and our very own, competent staff, and as a result it has been independently verified that we have greatly improved the safety of our city.”

In the May 15, 2016 fire that devastated the Ocean Ridge condominium and retail complex at Five Corners – since repaired and reoccupied – city water reserves were depleted by firefighting efforts, which resulted in a call to Surrey for additional water.

When two residents requested a formal incident investigation later that year, Baldwin said he hoped any investigation would include results of the Fire Underwriters Survey of the city.

“In the past we’ve passed that with flying colours – I assume that’s still the case,” he said at the time.

Baldwin concluded his remarks Monday night by leading councillors in a standing ovation for Lemire and other staff members.

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