Inquest Hears Onus For Fire Safety Plan Lay With Lakeland
Prince George, BC – Appearing via video-conferencing at the Coroner’s Inquest into the deaths of Glenn Roche and Alan Little, BC’s Fire Commissioner has testified the onus of responsibility for Fire Safety Plans lies with building owners.
Testifying from his office in Victoria, Gordon Anderson, said it’s an owner’s responsibility to be be in compliance with the Fire Code, have a Fire Safety Plan in place and ensure employees are properly trained.
Earlier in the inquest, Coroner Lisa Lapointe and the five-man jury heard that Lakeland Mills had been repeatedly cited by the local Fire Prevention Officer for failing to have a Fire Safety Plan in place, and Captain Steve Feeney had also called on the mill to develop a dust clean up plan in the 18-months leading up to the April 2012 blast. (click here, for previous story)
In questioning the Fire Commissioner today, Counsel for the BC Safety Authority, Nigel Trevethan, also referred to earlier testimony which suggested the local officer had little information to pass along to Lakeland on how to do a Fire Safety Plan. “I’m not sure what was available at the time,” said Anderson, who stepped into the post of Fire Commissioner one year ago. “But the basic requirements are available under the Fire Code.” He pointed out that there are a number of private contractors who will come into a facility and develop a plan for those owners who don’t have the expertise. “The information is out there and available in a variety of ways.”
Anderson testified the Office of the Fire Commissioner has no power to enforce non-compliance orders. He noted that a local fire inspector can take the matter to Crown Counsel for charges under the Offence Act, with a maximum penalty of $1000 and up to six months in jail. But Anderson drew on his experience with the Esquimalt Fire Department in acknowledging few successful prosecutions. Anderson agreed with Inquest Counsel, John Orr’s, assertion that it would be ‘appropriate’ for the Fire Commissioner’s Office to have the ability to impose penalties.
He also agreed with a suggestion from Juror #5 regarding fire inspection checklists. The juror noted the local fire inspection form did not have a checklist item for combustible dust. Anderson testified there are no standardized fire inspection forms in BC, they are designed at the local level, ‘tailor-made’ to reflect the hazards in the community. Juror #5 said, “I think one of the simplest recommendations would be to have a combustible dust checklist (item).” The Fire Commissioner agreed having specific checklists available for specific hazards would be helpful to local fire inspectors.
The jury at a Coroner’s Inquest is tasked with finding recommendations to prevent similar deaths.