Good morning and thank you, Mr. Chair and committee members, for this opportunity to share our views on Bill S-222 and the expanded use of wood in federal government buildings.
Before I begin, I want to acknowledge that we are on the unceded traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe nation.
To briefly introduce our organization, the International Association of Fire Fighters, or the IAFF, represents more than 330,000 members in North America, including over 26,000 in Canada. Across this country, our members are on scene in minutes in any kind of an emergency, including structure fires, medical emergencies, water and ice rescues, hazardous materials incidents, and much more.
The IAFF supports a vibrant economy and a successful sustainable wood and wood products industry, including the expansion of the forestry sector and the opportunity for those workers. We ask this committee to consider that the increased use of combustible materials should come with increased considerations for fire safety, fire protection resources and firefighter safety. The last thing anyone wants is for a preventable tragedy to occur because of the unintended consequences of using combustible building materials for the wrong building in the wrong location, or in a place where the risk exceeds the capabilities of the local fire departments.
Expanded use of wood products in the construction of federal government buildings should not migrate into certain type 1 buildings as defined in the national building code, such as detention facilities, art facilities or industrial sites, or into such structures as parking garages, structures with major electrical installations or structures that are critical to government operations in the event of a major disaster.
Existing building code and safety-related considerations, such as sprinklers, smoke alarms, egress and floor performance, should be adhered to and enforced.
Building locations should be carefully assessed to ensure that they are not positioned to contribute to or be victim to wildfire, which is a threat that is becoming more and more prevalent in Canada. The design and safety of structures in so-called interface areas should be approached with the greatest amount of caution as the Government of Canada works slowly toward its commitment to train 1,000 firefighters in wildland response in the face of this growing threat.
Currently, the national building code doesn't link building uses to the available fire protection resources or training. We recommend a fire protection assessment in concert with local authorities any time a building with significant wood content is proposed. Local firefighters should be made aware of exactly what kinds of materials are present in a higher-risk structure and must be able to preplan the emergency response operations with training specific to the materials and the risks present. Training and awareness should include reference to any toxic chemicals that are present in building materials, such as wood treatments.
Adequate fire protection resources should be available in such a manner as to arrive on the scene quickly and with an adequate amount of personnel and the equipment necessary to safely and effectively protect lives, protect the structure and protect nearby exposed structures. All of these concerns from a fire protection and firefighter safety point of view are amplified when it comes to proposals for tall wood structures, meaning six- to 12-storey structures that are now permitted in the building code.
Bill S-222 and the rise of innovation in construction support our long-standing call for firefighter safety objectives in a national building code.
On behalf of our members across Canada and the IAFF, we appreciate this opportunity.
Before I close, while I have the floor, I want to say that I've been a firefighter for 37 years. For most of it, I was a supervisor or a captain. What a lot of people don't realize is that we are one of the few professions that do not have the right to refuse unsafe work. Every emergency scene is unsafe work, and we rely on all of you to include safety measures in building codes and fire codes to reduce the dangers that we face every day.
With that, I'll close. Thank you very much.
I am open to questions.