Original post found at: http://www.southwesternontario.ca/news/a-stratford-made-safety-solution/
A Stratford firefighter has taken the reigns on what is believed to be the first bylaw of its kind in Canada in the hopes of eliminating a hidden danger that men and women in uniform might encounter when in the line of duty.
Mike Lukachko says buildings and places of residence that use truss and lightweight wood construction, a popular building method due to its cost savings and durability, are more susceptible to collapse when exposed to fire – up to 60 per cent faster than conventional solid wood constructions, according to some industry tests.
Lightweight construction was partially to blame for the deaths of Listowel firefighters Kenneth Rea and Raymond Walter in 2011. They were inside a commercial building that was on fire when the roof collapsed, trapping them inside.
“Firefighters have tragically lost their lives fighting fires where this type of construction either caused or was a contributing factor in those incidents,” says Lukachko. “Awareness of trusses and lightweight assemblies in buildings is crucial as timelines for the commencement of rescue and fire suppression activities, and failure of these components has a very real potential to intersect.”
Lukachko learned more about the dangers of truss and lightweight construction a few years ago when he attended a building construction course at the Ontario Fire College. It was “a bit of an eye opener,” admits the 14-year veteran firefighter, who notes there are approximately 900 such constructions in Stratford.
So over the last year, Lukachko took it upon himself to sift through countless pages of research and data from fire organizations across North America – often during his own time – to develop a simple yet effective tool that’s all about “keeping our (firefighters) safe and making sure they get to go home to their families at the end of the day.”
The bylaw, adopted by city council on June 22, requires commercial, industrial, and multi-family residential occupancies of three or more units to display a reflective emblem which alerts firefighters to the presence of truss and lightweight construction. Depending on how long the fire’s been burning as well as other conditions, firefighters will then be able to make a more educated decision about whether it’s safe to enter a building.
“This has the potential to save lives for less than $4 per emblem,” says Lukachko, who notes the bylaw makes Stratford a leader in public safety.
Many municipalities and some states south of the border have implemented similar laws and ordinances requiring identification of truss and lightweight construction, but few programs if any have been adopted in Canada, he notes.
Lukachko was supported in his efforts by his fellow firefighters and superiors, including new Fire Chief John Paradis, who tells the Gazette that in just the last few weeks he’s fielded calls from fire officials in other Canadian municipalities who have expressed interest in the bylaw.
“We’re all very proud of what (Lukachko) has done,” he says, adding he’s honoured to be affiliated with a fire department that is taking a leadership role in the country. The chief also praised the mayor and members of city council for supporting the bylaw and helping improve firefighter safety.
The bylaw does not apply to single family or semi-detached dwellings or townhouses, though fire officials are hopeful that over time owners of those types of buildings will participate as well to better improve firefighter safety.
The emblem is round with a white background and red border. It will have the letter R to indicate the presence of roof trusses, the letter F to indicate floor trusses, or both letters. It will need to be mounted on the front entrance door no more than six feet high and no less than four feet from the bottom of the door.
There will be a one-year grace period during which the fire department, which is assuming all of the costs related to the program (roughly $3,400 for the first year) and its administration, will educate building owners during its annual fire inspections.