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Improper Use of Breathing Apparatus Cited in Canada LODDs
Updated: 02-04-2009 10:15:19 AM
LIA LEVESQUE The Canadian Press(CP)
MONTREAL -- Two Quebec towns are being fined by the provincial workers' health and safety commission after an investigation found that two firefighters died because of a lack of training and supervision in the use of breathing gear.
''The towns of Varennes and Val-des-Monts acted in a manner that compromised the safety of its workers,'' the agency said as it released its findings Tuesday.
The communities will each be fined between $5,000 and $20,000.
The commission examined the deaths of Varennes part-time firefighter Mathieu Emond and Val-des-Monts volunteer firefighter Andre Manseau.
Emond, who had only responded to two fires in the two years he had been with the Varennes fire department, died after he took off his breathing apparatus while checking the source of a house fire on March 4, 2008.
Emond, who was in the building's basement, removed his breathing mask because a crucial valve accidentally closed and caused the equipment to malfunction. He was overcome by carbon monoxide fumes.
Manseau died five days later when he entered the garage of a house north of Ottawa to fight an adjacent fire. He and his colleagues were told by a supervisor to not wear breathing masks in order to conserve air tanks.
However, the garage structure, which was weakened by the fire and by heavy snow on the roof, collapsed, trapping Manseau. He was buried for 45 minutes and suffocated.
The workers' health and safety board said that besides the inexperience of the firefighters - Manseau was 18 years old and had only 18 hours training - a lack of co-ordination led to the deaths.
In Emond's case, the commission said rescue efforts were lacking as was training in the use of equipment such as the breathing tanks.
''There was no communication and no concerted effort to get that firefighter out of the basement,'' said Martin Provencal, one of the commission's investigators.
Varennes Mayor Michel Tremblay said in a statement the city is studying the commission's report to understand the cause of the ''terrible'' death of the firefighter.
''The City of Varennes will take, if needed, all necessary measures so that a tragedy like this never happens again in Varennes,'' Tremblay said.
The commission recommended that firefighters be equipped with devices that can alert colleagues when they are in distress, such as individual radios. It also said they should be better trained.
The commission criticized the Val-des-Monts department for its use of air tanks. It also said it should re-evaluate its procedures for deeming a structure safe enough to deploy firefighters inside.
The commission will send its findings to the towns, Quebec's Public Security Department and the provincial firefighting training academy.
Four other firefighters have died in the last five years because of improper or poor use of breathing equipment.
About 500 accidents involving firefighters are reported each year in Quebec.
The commission says 80 per cent of firefighters in the province work part-time.
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Montreal LODD's - WCB Findings And Fines
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