Dawson firefighters call inspection’s validity into question

The Dawson City Firefighters Association is calling into question an inspection done by the Yukon Fire Marshal’s Office that found serious health and safety concerns.

The Dawson City Firefighters Association is calling into question an inspection done by the Yukon Fire Marshal’s Office that found serious health and safety concerns with how the Dawson City Fire Department is run.

Two weeks ago the News reported on an FMO inspection report that highlighted a number of issues with the department.

The inspection found all the fire department’s self-contained breathing apparatuses failed tests performed by the FMO.

The FMO also found the department has kept few records on inspection, training and investigations.

But now the Dawson City Firefighters Association says four of the 12 self-breathing devices originally tested passed an independent test done by a certified facility. Four more packs are on their way to Vancouver to be tested.

At no time the lives of Dawsonites were put at risk, senior captain Gerry Crayford told the News yesterday.

“We’ve been here a hundred years and we certainly would never put our lives or anybody else’s in danger,” he said.

Crayford said he agrees the department can improve its recordkeeping practices, but said public safety is not at risk.

“In my world, record-keeping, it’s basically ass-covering,” he said. “It’s to say we’ve trained people.”

And training does happen weekly, he added.

“You wouldn’t have anybody come to the fire hall and sit around and drink coffee or beer or whatever.”

The DCFD has 32 volunteer firefighters plus the fire chief, who is a paid employee of the city.

The city called in the fire marshal last March to do business inspections because the fire chief was away, according to the inspection report.

It was around that time that fire chief Jim Regimbal was suspended. He was later reinstated.

“When a fire department is without a fire chief the CAO (Chief Administrative Officer) does have the additional responsibility and it’s in that regard that I ask for the FMO to advise if the City was operationally up-to-date on safety matters,” CAO André Larabie told the News today.

In the inspection the FMO noted it was also tasked to “review the administration of the DCFD.”

But Crayford said they weren’t aware the FMO was there to audit them.

He questioned why the FMO couldn’t have waited for the fire chief, who knows where records are kept, to come back.

The inspection report makes numerous mentions of difficulties with locating department records.

Dawson City Mayor Wayne Potoroka echoed Crayford’s sentiment in a letter to the News today.

“The FMO official might have had more success in locating reports if the fire chief or a senior member of the fire department had been present during the walkthrough,” Potoroka wrote.

Both Potoroka and Crayford agree the department can improve its record-keeping practices.

That was actually identified as one of the priorities in a 10-year strategic plan passed by city council last December, Crayford noted.

The purchase of new self-contained breathing apparatuses was also included in the new strategic plan.

“Until the new equipment’s arrival, the firefighters, who always understood the limitations of their packs, were following the advice of the FMO and only planning to use the equipment during interior operations after the incident commander has made a ‘calculated risk analysis’ of the situation,” Potoroka wrote.

“Thankfully, that has not been necessary to date.”

Crayford told the News new self-contained breathing apparatuses were ordered because the current ones are over 10 years old. But the old ones were still safe to use, he said.

“Those packs are our lives,” he said.

Potoroka also said the leak of the inspection report “did nothing to improve the safety of our residents” and may have been an attempt to smear the fire department’s reputation.

“This leak of information might have sought to discredit the DCFD, but it has only served to remind us of how thankful and fortunate we are for their service.”

The Department of Community Services, which oversees the fire marshal’s office, told the News that acting fire marshal Kevin Taylor wasn’t available yesterday for an interview.

“The fire marshal’s office presented a factual report and recommendations for action to the City of Dawson,” spokesperson Amanda Couch told the News in an email. “This is now a matter for the City of Dawson.”

When asked whether Taylor or anybody from the department would be available to speak today, Couch sent the News the same statement again.

When asked why the FMO couldn’t wait for Regimbal to be back, Couch said the department didn’t have anything more to add.

Contact Pierre Chauvin at pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com

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