The construction sector welcomes changes allowing some work to resume under Calgary’s fire ban

Roofing work can now resume, as well as other construction work involving practices such as hot air welding, although a fire ban is still in effect in Calgary due to a major water main break last week.

Calgary Fire Department (CFD) Chief Steve Dongworth announced the rule change during Tuesday’s daily water main break update, saying he is working closely with the Calgary Building Association (CCA) to review the definitions in the ban.

The ban on certain burning activities has been in place since a massive water main break on June 10 put Calgary’s water supply in critical condition, which also resulted in outdoor water restrictions.

As part of the fire ban, hot work was prohibited.

The city defines hot work as any work that involves an open flame or produces heat or sparks, including, but not limited to, cutting, welding, soldering, brazing, grinding, gluing, roofing, thermal spraying and pipe thawing.

“We know that some of these restrictions have had an impact on the type of work that can be done on construction sites and on workers themselves,” Dongworth said.

“We worked… both to clarify the direction provided by the fire service and to develop solutions to support the needs of the industry.”

In a statement, CCA welcomed the change, expressing satisfaction with CFD’s efforts to balance the safety of Calgary residents with the operational needs of the construction industry.

“We appreciate CFD’s recognition of the importance of hot air welding and cold roofing work in new construction projects,” the statement read.

“While some high-risk hot work, such as open flame work or bitumen/tar boilers in new and existing buildings, remains prohibited, we understand these measures as they prioritize the most high-risk operations.”

Other activities that were previously prohibited remain prohibited.

In an interview with CBC Calgary Eyeopener earlier that day, CCA president and CEO Bill Black said the industry is feeling the pinch because of the ban, expressing concern that a backlog could arise if work doesn’t continue soon.

“Every day is critical,” Black said.

“It’s not just about people making money and being able to support their families, but also about the industry being able to ensure that projects don’t fall behind other projects in the future.”

Black added that on Monday, about 800 commercial roofers were at home and unable to work during “prime roofing weather.”

LISTEN | Calgary Construction Association president Bill Black talks about the impact of the fire ban on construction in the city

Calgary Eyeopener7:41Fire ban on construction sites

A local construction industry group says the fire ban is having a major impact on jobs across the city.

Although Black acknowledged that the work could pose hazards, during Monday’s meeting with Dongworth, he spoke on behalf of the industry in favor of changing the rules and definitions.

“We understand safety concerns and are willing to invest in additional resources and fire service personnel and professionals to oversee the work until the fire service is more confident and has the resources it needs,” he said.

Dongworth said low-risk work could continue provided fire surveillance was carried out for one hour after the application was submitted, followed by an inspection four hours after completion.

Additional fire extinguishers must be available on site after hot work is completed.