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Calgary construction sector hopeful of changes to fire ban put in place with water main break

Calgary’s construction industry is hopeful city officials will revise the rules of a fire ban put in place after a major water main break, saying it’s delaying projects and preventing people from working at a key time for the sector.

“Every day is critical,” Bill Black, the president and CEO of the Calgary Construction Association (CCA) said in an interview on CBC’s Calgary Eyeopener on Tuesday.  

“It’s not just about people earning money and being able to provide for their families, but it’s also about the industry able to ensure projects are not delayed with other projects down the road.”

The failure of a massive main break on June 10 plunged Calgary’s water supply into a critical state and triggered Stage 4 water restrictions. 

A fire ban was also implemented that day as a precautionary measure with the city saying a large fire would significantly amplify the threat of running out of water.

A number of things are prohibited under the ban, among them all hot works that require a fire safety plan — and construction workers are feeling the crunch.

“The major trade that has been affected has been commercial roofing, just about everything we do is either hot work under this definition,” Black said.

The city defines hot works as any work that involves open flames or producing heat or sparks, including, but not limited to, cutting, welding, soldering, brazing, grinding, adhesive bonding, roofing operations, thermal spraying and thawing pipes.

“[That] adds another factor in that a lot of roofing products, commercial products, are applied using adhesives and primers that flash off with combustible, volatile, organic compounds and such,” Black said.

“The end result … approximately 800 commercial roofers were sitting at home yesterday unable to work in prime roofing weather.”

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

Calgary Eyeopener7:41Fire ban affecting construction sites

A local construction industry group says the fire ban is having a big impact on job sites around the city.

While Black acknowledged the dangers that the works can pose, he said the industry wants the rules and definitions around some of the works redefined.

“We would like to see them take a look at the scale of hot works and recognize the difference between a full-blown blow torch and a hot air gun, welding PVC membrane and allow some flexibly around the work,” he said.

Black said that at a meeting with Calgary Fire Department Chief Steve Dongworth on Monday they discussed the concerns of the sector.

“We understand the safety concerns and are willing to invest in additional resources and individuals and fire professionals to oversee the work until such a time as the fire department is more confident and has the resources it needs.”

He said the fire department committed to review the content of the restrictions and provide some additional clarity on the definition of hot works. 

The City of Calgary declined to comment on whether the rules and definitions of the fire ban would be revised but said that answers would be available during the 2 p.m. daily update on Tuesday.

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