Thank you, Mr. Chair, for this opportunity to share our views on this important issue today.
To briefly introduce our organization, the International Association of Fire Fighters represents more than 310,000 professional firefighters in North America, including more than 25,000 in Canada. In Canada's largest cities and towns, our members are on scene in minutes in any kind of emergency, large or small, including structure fires, medical emergencies, water and ice rescues, hazardous materials incidents, and more.
The IAFF certainly supports a vibrant economy and a successful, sustainable wood and wood products industry, including the expansion of the forest sector, and opportunities for its workers. At the same time, as national and provincial building codes are responding quickly to the need for innovation in the expanded use of wood products, we urge the committee to exercise caution, and to do what it can to regulate or encourage the regulation of adequate fire protection, meaning firefighter and public safety.
As fire protection is a municipal responsibility, it is also provincially regulated. We suggest this should be a topic of discussion for the federal government's municipal and provincial partners. The rush to allow wood-frame construction of up to 12 storeys, which is proposed for the 2020 edition of the national building code of Canada, has been billed as an economic boost for the forestry industry.
As we have formally stated to the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes, and to the federal government, we remain unconvinced about the fire performance of tall wood structures, and whether our urban fire departments and front-line personnel are really prepared to safely and effectively protect the public in the event of a fire inside a tall wood structure.
We're aware of studies that discuss the fire performance of cross-laminated timbers and glulam, and the charring effect that supposedly protects these materials from failure. Our members across Canada can attest to the fact that what happens in a large structure filled with modern combustible materials can be very different from what happens in the confines of a controlled test environment.
Our chief concern is that a majority of urban fire departments in Canada probably lack the equipment, resources, and training to safely and effectively respond to a fire in a tall or large wood-frame structure. Firefighters may be required to be inside a burning structure long after other occupants have escaped in order to search for and rescue anyone who may be trapped, and to provide aggressive interior suppression in order to save the building and its contents. This is what the public expects of firefighters. Firefighters will be inside or in close proximity to one of these structures in the event of a collapse.
In our view, there are too many unknowns about the way a completed six-, 10-, or 12-storey combustible wood-frame structure would respond in a real fire situation. It's hard to predict the weight load and the fuel load of a particular structure once it is built and populated.
There's also the prospect, as was tragically seen in the Grenfell Tower fire in London, U.K., earlier this year, that modifications, in this case flammable exterior cladding, may be made to an existing structure many years later. Neither the national building code, national fire code, nor respective provincial building codes address fire department response capabilities as they relate to the suitability or safety of a particular structure.
There was no reference in proposals for mid-rise wood-frame construction to any fire protection standards, such as NFPA 1710, the science-based standard from the National Fire Protection Association, that quantifies adequate fire department deployment in an urban setting.