National Fire Code of Canada

The National Building Code of Canada (NBC) and the National Fire Code of Canada (NFC), both published by the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and developed by the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes (CCBFC), are developed as companion documents.

The NBC establishes minimum standards for the health and safety of the occupants of new buildings. It also applies to the alteration of existing buildings, including changes in occupancy. The NBC is not retroactive. That is, a building constructed in conformance with a particular edition of the NBC, which is in effect at the time of its construction, is not automatically required to conform to the subsequent edition of the NBC. That building would only be required to conform to an updated version of the NBC if it were to undergo a change in occupancy or alterations which invoke the application of the new NBC in effect at the time of the change in occupancy or major alteration.

The NFC addresses fire safety during the operation of facilities and buildings. The requirements in the NFC, on the other hand, are intended to ensure the level of safety initially provided by the NBC is maintained. With this objective, the NFC regulates:

  • the conduct of activities causing fire hazards
  • the maintenance of fire safety equipment and egress facilities
  • limitations on building content, including the storage and handling of hazardous products
  • the establishment of fire safety plans

The NFC is intended to be retroactive with respect to fire alarm, standpipe and sprinkler systems. In 1990, the NFC was revised to clarify that such systems “shall be provided in all buildings where required by and in conformance with the requirements of the National Building Code of Canada.” This ensures that buildings are adequately protected against the inherent risk at the same level as the NBC would require for a new building. It does not concern other fire protection features such as smoke control measures or firefighter’s elevators. The NFC also ensures that changes in building use do not increase the risk beyond the limits of the original fire protection systems.

The NBC and the NFC are written to minimize the possibility of conflict in their respective contents. Both must be considered when constructing, renovating or maintaining buildings. They are complementary, in that the NFC takes over from the NBC once the building is in operation. In addition, older structures which do not conform to the most current level of fire safety can be made safer through the requirements of the NFC.

The most recent significant changes in the NFC relate the construction of six-storey buildings using combustible construction. As a result, eight additional protection measures related to mid-rise combustible buildings have been added to address fire hazards during construction when fire protection features are not yet in place.


For further information, refer to the following resources:

Fire Safety Design in Buildings (Canadian Wood Council)

Codes Canada – National Research Council of Canada

National Building Code of Canada

National Fire Code of Canada

Fire Safety and Security: A Technical Note on Fire Safety and Security on Construction Sites in Ontario/British Columbia (Canadian Wood Council)