A fire hydrant in Langley. (Photo: Dan Ferguson/Black Press)

B.C. fire chief says there’s no need to park so far away from fire hydrants

Reducing parking distance limits from fire hydrants could create 2,650 new parking spaces in Surrey, city staff say

A couple Lower Mainland cities are thinking of reducing parking distance limits around fire hydrants from five to 2.5 metres, in an effort to boost their parking supply.

The idea, which came from a UFV study co-authored by Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis last year, could create thousands of new parking spots in cities across the region.

It’s estimated the move could create 2,650 new parking spaces in Surrey alone.

Surrey council will consider a staff report Monday that recommends the change, but even if the plan gets the green light next week, the move would still require provincial consent to amend the BC Motor Vehicle Act.

If approved by city council, Surrey staff would then share their report with other municipalities around the province and the city engineer would “engage” the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to encourage revising the MVA.

Last year, Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis co-authored a University of the Fraser Valley study titled “The Reduction of Parking Restrictions around Fire Hydrants” that suggested the five-metre parking prohibition around fire hydrants could be comfortably reduced to 2.5 metres.

The report concluded that distance “would have no operational impact on the fire department’s ability to draw maximum available water from a fire hydrant.”

The UFV study said the original reason for the existing five-metre no-stopping zone was to make it easier for fire trucks to spot the hydrants.

“With the advancement of geographic positioning systems (GPS), CAD (computer assisted design) maps in the fire trucks, and other related technologies, along with the driver’s awareness of hydrant locations, this is not widely seen as an issue any longer at least in the compact urban setting” the study noted.

The proposal caught the interest of Langley Township earlier this spring and Mayor Jack Froese said the municipality would be looking into it further.

The proposal has been endorsed by the association representing B.C. fire chiefs and the Regional Engineers Advisory Committee in Metro Vancouver.

Chief Len Garis told the Now-Leader the research all began with a question.

“Our (City of Surrey) engineering operations department came to us and asked a sort of innocent question saying this five-metre distance requirement on each side of the fire hydrant, where does it come form? It seems to be a bit aggressive, or rich,” said Garis.

The rule, he explained, is outlined in the Motor Vehicle Act.

“We casually went away to pay respect to the question and said, ‘let’s conduct our own research.”

That research suggested two metres was ample, noted Garis, “but as a bit of an insurance, we said 2.5 metres was probably reasonable on both sides.”

Garis —who is also an adjunct professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice and associate to the Centre for Social Research at UFV — said national and international research suggested 1.5 to 5 metres would be appropriate, but that he’s “very comfortable” with the 2.5.

He added it would be a “win-win” for many areas that struggle with lack of parking supply. Even in smaller communities, it’s estimated the change could free up hundreds of parking spaces.

-With files from Dan Ferguson



amy.reid@surreynowleader.com

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