The Inquest Recommendations
The inquest jury in the Sudbury fire deaths has submitted its recommendations, to try and prevent further deaths. They are only recommendations, they are not binding on the local or provincial government. Hopefully some action will be taken before another tragedy occurs. The newspaper story is below.
Inquest calls for full-time firefighters
Jury returns 24 recommendations in McLean fire
By Harold Carmichael/The Sudbury Star
Sunday, October 06, 2002 - 11:00
News - A recommendation by a coroner’s jury that the City of Greater Sudbury hire more full-time firefighters for Valley East is “a step in the right direction,” the president of the Sudbury Professional Firefighters Association said Friday.
Chris Stokes also welcomed another key recommendation of the jury: that the city conduct a fire risk assessment for Valley East, Rayside-Balfour, Walden, Capreol, Nickel Centre and Onaping Falls.
Stokes was commenting on the 24 recommendations made by the coroner’s jury that examined the deaths of Pearl Shaw, 75, and her great-grandchildren Ellias McLean, 4, and Asha-Jade McLean, 3.
The three died of smoke inhalation in a house fire April 22, 2001, at 4141 Roy St. in Hanmer. Their bodies were recovered in the basement when the fire was extinguished.
The inquest was called after the community raised concerns about how Valley East firefighters handled the fire.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Stokes of the jury’s findings. “The number of firefighters and on-site communication — those two are probably the key recommendations in a fire sense.
“We hope they are implemented. It (on-site communication) played a big role in the fire.”
The jury’s key recommendation is that the city ensure two full-time firefighters are stationed at Hanmer, Val Caron and Val Therese around the clock, seven days a week. Currently, the Hanmer and Val Caron stations are not manned, while Val Therese has one full-time firefighter on duty.
Stokes said in an interview that, based on the jury’s recommendation, Valley East should have 24 full-time firefighters.
As it stands, there are six full-time firefighters in the former City of Valley East, although one of the six is a full-time trainer. That leaves four full-time firefighters, one full-time firefighter/fire prevention officer and more than 40 volunteers to provide firefighting services in a community of more than 20,000.
On the day of the fatal fire, the inquest heard that a lone, full-time firefighter responded to the scene along with several volunteers. Frantic neighbours lent firefighters a hand, helping set up fire hose at the home to try and get Shaw and her great-grandchildren out of the burning building.
Reaction from the City of Greater Sudbury to the jury’s findings was cautious. The city’s acting chief administrative officer, Mark Mieto, said in a statement: “We will carefully review and reflect on the recommendations made by the jury.”
Acting fire chief Wayne Ropp, meanwhile, declined to comment, saying, “we have to review the recommendations.”
Hiring more full-time firefighters won’t be cheap. Adding 18 firefighters would cost close to $1 million.
Stokes said the city would have to consider the recommendations carefully. “It’s going to be interesting to see,” he said.
“I think the city is taking the inquest a lot more seriously than other things. I think they are going to look at the recommendations and take it seriously.
“We are looking forward to working with them to see some of the recommendations get implemented.”
Stokes said he also liked the fact several recommendations stressed the need for increased fire safety education.
“Everybody has the attitude a fire is something that happens to the guy down the street, the guy in the next house, but not me,” he said.
Valley East volunteer firefighter Dave Barrett, who arrived at the fire scene after the fire was out, said he was relieved the inquest was over.
“I think you look at it as something where, if anything could go wrong, it did,” said the 25-year volunteer in an interview.
“It was reported late. The experts ... even said the fire was going a good half-hour to 45 minutes without being detected.
“There was a lot that was said and a lot that wasn’t said.”
Barrett said the fatal fire has helped bring Valley East volunteer firefighters closer together. “This has made the volunteers stronger rather than weaken them.”
Meanwhile, one of the issues raised during the inquest has reached the provincial level. On Friday, the Ontario government released a list of 15 municipalities under scrutiny by the fire marshal amid fears of inadequate fire protection.
The list, which includes Sudbury, Nairn-Hyman, Ottawa and Kingston, was made public just hours after the president of North America’s largest firefighter union accused the province of trying to keep it a secret.
The existence of the list was divulged by a representative of the fire marshal’s office during testimony at the McLean inquest.
However, Tony Pacheco, executive assistant to Ontario Fire Marshal Bernie Moyle, said none of the communities on the list are or ever have been facing any increased threat to public safety.
“If, during the course of our monitoring process, we felt there was a potentially serious threat to public safety, the fire marshal would act immediately to notify the municipality,” Pacheco said. “None of the communities on this list are at the level of having a potentially serious threat to the community.”
The list consists primarily of municipalities embroiled in a debate about firefighting resources and who have asked the fire marshal to mediate, said James Wallace, a spokesman for Public Safety and Security Minister Bob Runciman.