Bill 4 – 2016 Fire Safety Act ( the "new FSA") progressed through first reading on February 15, 2016. It is intended to modernize the regulatory framework for fire safety in B.C. and and replaces the Fire Services Act, RSBC 1996, c. 144 which had not been substantially updated since 1979.
The Hansard debate transcript from the bill's introduction in the Legislative Assembly sets out the following key objectives:
- improve fire code compliance monitoring by making it risk-based;
- enable local authorities to appoint fire safety personnel to carry out fire inspections, investigations and evacuations; and
- establish an administrative enforcement model to address non-compliance issues in a more timely and effective manner.
The new FSA is designed to further delegate enforcement power from the Province to local government authorities and the fire commissioner. This is presumably intended to streamline regulatory and enforcement functions to ensure that local authorities have the power to address dangerous premises more quickly.
Local governments will now be required to implement risk-based compliance monitoring systems, which include the power to mandate that owners carry out fire safety assessments or face a fire safety inspection undertaken at the owner's expense. Fire commissioners and local authorities can now order preventive evacuations.
Finally, the FSA expands on enforcement powers by introducing significant administrative penalties – which the fire commissioner is empowered to impose – and increases the severity of available penalties upon conviction for an offence.
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