Update: Fernie Memorial Arena Ammonia Leak

The precautionary evacuation order remains in place around Fernie Memorial Arena Wednesday afternoon as a specialized hazardous materials team continues to work with City of Fernie Fire and Emergency Services to contain an ammonia leak inside the arena.

“The primary focus at this time is developing a plan to secure safe access to the facility, which has been closed since yesterday afternoon when Fernie Fire and Rescue responded to the scene,” says City of Fernie Communications Coordinator Liz Rhodes. “Crews are also completing perimeter checks of the levels in the air around the building.”

Late this morning, the City confirmed two of the three fatalities involved City of Fernie employees and, at the request of the families, their names are not being publicly released.  The City is urging residents and media to respect the privacy of the affected families and staff during this difficult time.

“Fernie is a tight-knit community and I know we will pull together to support one another as we have in the past,” says Mayor Mary Guiliano. “The City is arranging for support to the families and our workers to help manage the grief and emotions we are all feeling.”

Residents in the affected area who have been evacuated are being offered accommodation at a local hotel until the evacuation order has been lifted and the Emergency Reception Centre remains set up at the Senior Citizens Drop-In Centre.

Just before one o’clock yesterday afternoon, Fernie Fire Rescue responded to a medical assist call as a result of an anhydrous ammonia leak at the arena.  Upon arrival, they found a citizen performing CPR on one individual who was immediately relocated and put in the care of the BC Ambulance Service.   Upon entering the building for an interior search, crews found two additional victims deceased and had to exit the building due to the hazardous environment.   The scene was secured and the preliminary evacuation order issued until the leak can be contained.

“Information will continue to be provided as it becomes available and the first step in that process will be when crews are able to access the building and fully assess the scene,” adds Rhodes. WorkSafe BC, the Hazardous Materials Team from Calgary, Ministry of Environment and Interior Health are all in Fernie working with our Emergency Response Team and City staff to develop a plan to gain safe entry.

“I would like to thank our First Responders and the entire Emergency Response Team for their efforts in dealing with this extraordinary situation,” adds Giuliano. “The professionalism and coordination between City forces (particularly Fernie Fire Rescue), the RCMP, Regional District and our Provincial resources, to ensure all the steps necessary were taken to respond to this extremely dangerous situation has been outstanding.”

An information line with a recorded message detailing the latest information has been set up at 1-855-346-2188.

At least 3 die following ammonia leak in Fernie BC

Statement from MP Wayne Stetski

I am so sorry to hear about the three deaths resulting from the ammonia leak at the Fernie arena. My sincere condolences to the family and friends of those who died, and to the people of Fernie.

I have been in contact with Mayor Mary Giuliano to offer her whatever assistance I can, both personally and working with the Federal Government.

Wayne Stetski

Member of Parliament

Kootenay Columbia

Statement on the workplace death of 3 workers in Fernie

Vancouver – The following is a statement from Irene Lanzinger, president of the BC Federation of Labour, regarding the workplace death of 3 workers in Fernie:

“Today our thoughts are with the families, friends and community of the three workers who were killed yesterday while working at an ice rink in Fernie.

While information is still being gathered on what happened, it is my expectation that the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) will spare no resource in carrying out a comprehensive investigation to determine the cause of the leak and why safety measures did not prevent these fatalities. We expect the RCMP to perform a thorough investigation to determine whether criminal negligence was a factor in this tragedy.

In our view, every workplace accident and death is preventable.

The health and safety of workers must be paramount at every workplace. And if health and safety regulatory requirements are ignored or poorly implemented, there must be serious, even criminal, consequences.

Further, the WCB must increase their enforcement of workplace health and safety protections and training for workers and employers. Prevention is the only way to end workplace injuries and fatalities.

We look forward to working with the government and the Workers’ Compensation Board to improve workplace health and safety to ensure that everyone goes home from work healthy and safe.”