Motion for sprinklers `an emergency' for sprinklers `an emergency'After 2 fires in public housing sites, councillor calls for systems to be installed in all new developmentsJan 14, 2008 04:30 AMBruce DeMaraStaff ReporterFollowing two recent deadly fires at Toronto Community Housing developments, a city councillor says it's time to make installation of sprinklers mandatory in any future social housing projects.A woman and two of her children died on Dec. 22 when their townhouse went up in flames while three other children barely managed to escape.On Jan. 7, a 75-year-old man died in another fire that displaced numerous families in a nearby 249-unit TCHC site on Keele St.That has spurred Councillor Anthony Perruzza – who represents the ward where the second fire took place – to call for action on what he described as an "emergency."Perruzza, who sits on the housing board, is asking city councillors to support his motion requiring all future city-built projects to include sprinkler systems and to ask the TCHC – an arm's-length agency – to comply with that direction."We've had a couple of fires where there were deaths ... within the span of two weeks, both in TCHC housing. We need to move forward. We have some control over that type of housing and we should exercise that control," Perruzza said.He said sprinklers are mandatory in commercial and industrial buildings and in underground garages of highrise residential properties. The next logical step would be to add social housing to the list, he said.Perruzza said he hopes council will take up his motion for debate. "I'm hoping that council will see this as an emergency and will deal with it later this month," he said.Councillor Maria Augimeri – in whose ward the Dec. 22 fire occurred – is supporting Perruzza's initiative. "(Sprinklers) have been proven to save property and we believe they can save lives," she said.Augimeri said the redevelopment of Regent Park – which will combine market-priced housing with new social housing units – is "a great opportunity" for the housing corporation to show leadership.Perruzza noted that since Vancouver passed a bylaw requiring sprinklers in all new housing, there have been no fire-related fatalities. The U.S.-based National Fire Prevention Association has found there have been no multiple deaths in buildings with sprinkler systems.Toronto Fire Chief Bill Stewart also came out strongly in favour of requiring sprinkler systems in new residential properties in the aftermath of the recent deaths."The fire chief basically swears by (sprinklers), the Ontario Fire Marshal agrees that they're a lifesaver. Who am I to disagree with them?" Perruzza said.In fact, just as improved insulation to reduce heating costs has been factored into new construction, so should the cost of installing sprinkler systems, he said."If TCHC and the city ... incorporate (sprinklers) as part of their construction costs, those things are going to be installed and one day we will have forgotten about the cost. Before you know it, your insurance costs come down, your property damage diminishes and you save lives," Perruzza said.Augimeri said she would have taken Perruzza's initiative a step further, seeking to have older TCHC buildings retrofitted with sprinklers if major reconstruction was also being done. "(B)ut I think I would be laughed out of the room because there is no money," she said. The cash-strapped agency operates close to 60,000 units of aging social housing stock, much of it in poor repair.Perruzza said another key element is lobbying the province to put sprinkler system requirements in the Ontario Building Code.TCHC president Derek Ballantyne could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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