Shipping containers are a risk to the public and first responders if not properly vented.

This comes from Powell River Fire Rescue Chief Terry Peters.

“These containers are becoming less expensive and more common in Powell River,” Peters says. “We haven’t had an incident here, but there’s a very real danger of explosion due to flammables that are often stored inside them. As firefighters, we don’t know what’s inside and circumstances can be catastrophic in the event of a fire in the container or outside of it.”

As the containers become more inexpensive, they’re being used for storage on construction, industrial, commercial and residential sites.

They often don’t have a permit and can be airtight or improperly ventilated.

Peters says it’s unsafe to store anything flammable without proper ventilation and signage to warn of possible significant hazards to fire crews.

“Signage is important to firefighters for recognizing the possible hazards that are in these containers and take appropriate tactical safety precautions during a response where they are located.” 

Given the seriousness of the threat to the public and fire crews, the city is ramping up its vigilance and inspection of the units.

“We want to let people know that if you decide to purchase or install a shipping container, you must first follow proper zoning restrictions and permits or you may be subject to removing these storage containers from your properties located in prohibited zones or be subject to fines of up to $2,000,” Peters adds.

Placement and use of steel storage or shipping containers are prohibited in all R, RM and C zones, but are permitted in the NT, PK, A0, A1 and A2 zones subject to landscape screening and setback requirements.

Steel storage containers are permitted in M zones and are subject to Development Permit issuance. 

Containers might also be allowed on residential properties where they were grandfathered in prior to the bylaws being adopted.