Smoke Alarms and Sprinkler Protection Can Make Wood-Frame Buildings as Safe as Concrete Buildings

The Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) is pleased with the release of a study showing that the type of building construction material used makes little difference with respect to fire spread, injury rates and death providing the buildings have sprinklers and smoke alarms.

The research report "Fire Outcomes in Residential Fires by General Construction Type," based on a study of almost 12,000 fires, has just been released by the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) in British Columbia. Its two authors are leading fire safety experts: Len Garis, the city of Surrey, BC Fire Chief and adjunct professor at UFV and Dr. Joseph Clare, faculty member of the Institute of Canadian Urban Research Studies, Simon Fraser University.

"We welcome a scientific study that challenges the idea that concrete and steel buildings are safer in a fire than those with wood framing," says David Lindsay, President and CEO of FPAC. "This research shows that wood-frame buildings are just as safe as long as there are functioning smoke alarms and complete sprinkler protection."

The reports shows that the presence of working smoke alarm reduced the death rate for all construction types while the presence of a sprinkler system brings the death rate to zero no matter what construction material is used.

Several proposed changes to the 2015 National Building Code of Canada specific to mid-rise wood construction will further reduce fire risks by such means as increased use of automatic sprinklers in concealed areas of residential buildings and greater water supply for firefighting purposes.

"Innovation, technological advances and new standards of engineering have resulted in wood products that are strong, safe and sophisticated," says Lindsay. "It is rewarding to see this validated by independent research."

The study can be found at:

FPAC provides a voice for Canada's wood, pulp, and paper producers nationally and internationally in government, trade, and environmental affairs. The $57-billion-a-year forest products industry represents 2% of Canada's GDP and is one of Canada's largest employers operating in hundreds of communities and providing 230,000 direct jobs across the country.

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