Options being researched in dealing with fire codes

Bashaw needs solution soon to lack of fire safety codes officer

Administration is working diligently to figure out a solution to a complex, but serious issue the town has found itself in.

Bashaw is looking at some options to close a fire safety compliance hole it faces as a result of the former fire chief leaving the department earlier this year.

Mike Andriatz had been Bashaw’s fire safety codes officer during his tenure as the fire chief and kept acting in that capacity after he stepped down as the town’s fire chief last year.

However, when Andriatz officially left the department, there was no one left that was qualified to do the work that is meant to maintain compliance with provincial fire and safety legislation.

That was part of the reason behind a delegation at council’s April 18 meeting from the Alberta Safety Codes Council (ASBC).

Peter Thomas, ASBC accreditation administrator, was joined by ASBC fire auditor Mark Cardwell to explain just what the ASBC is about and to answer any questions that council might have.

The ASBC is responsible for ensuring that provincial safety codes rules and legislation — which covers buildings, electrical, fire, elevators and amusement rides to list a few — are followed. It also accredits municipalities and companies in these various areas to assist with compliance and inspections.

“The current model has been in place since 1994 when the province established the council through passing of the Safety Codes Act,” Thomas said.

“It moved it to one based upon local-based decision making to meet local needs.”

To do that meant instituting an accreditation process, basically giving the power to enforce the legislation. Thomas added there are three accreditations the ASBC authorizes — municipal, corporate and agency.

In this instance, Bashaw is an accredited municipality and has an established Quality Management Plan (QMP) — an agreement on the administration of the Act — that operates on a request or complaint basis, meaning inspections or investigations are not done on a regular basis.

On the fire side of things, the town’s fire chief conducted those while an accredited agency was contracted by the town to perform the other duties such as building, electrical, gas and plumbing inspections.

Thomas explained that hanging onto municipal accreditation is preferable for Bashaw, but that as an interim measure it may be best to join up with a neighbouring municipality.

“The one key component of joint accreditation is that a municipality can share the costs, which is a big reason smaller municipalities go with this approach especially on the fire side,” he said.

“However for smaller municipalities, standalone accreditation has the benefit of direct oversight and a broad spectrum on liability protection.”

Moving forward

Having heard the town won’t be forcing businesses to undergo possibly needless inspections, council determined it best to continue on its current path as an accredited municipality. However, it also directed administration to look at the option of combining on the fire side with a neighbour.

CAO Theresa Fuller explained, council’s May 2 meeting, that Camrose County has already indicated that it isn’t able to add them under their QMP at this time and that a letter requesting the City of Camrose to include Bashaw in its QMP had not yet gotten a reply.

So Fuller is looking into the possibility of using a contractor, as the town does need to at least temporarily designate the fire safety codes officer powers to a qualified agency or municipality. Further information is expected on the issue at the May 23 meeting.

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