Two years ago, five people died in Porter Creek. They had been feeling sick, but they didn’t realize a deadly gas was slowly filling their home.
The Rusk family – Bradley, Valerie, Gabe and Rebekah – and their family friend Donald McNamee died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
In the weeks and months that followed, carbon monoxide detectors flew off store shelves around the territory.
In 2013, an inquest jury listened to details of what happened and made nine recommendations on how to prevent similar deaths in the future.
Now, the government is still working on the regulations that could put some of those recommendations into practice. But it remains unclear exactly what those regulations will look like.
Community Services Minister Brad Cathers says the key thing the government has done when it comes to carbon monoxide safety is education. Multiple recommendations from the jury centred on the need for awareness campaigns.
“I think one of the best things government can do in this area, and in many others, is help people understand how they can best take steps to provide for their own safety,” he said last week.
Advertising campaigns began a year after the deaths, including some by the government and others by the fire marshall’s office.
This month, a new website was launched. The site, www.seriouslysimple.ca, lays out the potential dangers of carbon monoxide and how to spot hazards.
New oil-fired appliance legislation was passed last May. But the accompanying regulations aren’t ready for public viewing just yet, Cathers said.
Regulations are in the final stages of being drafted right now. They will be put out for public comment later this year and come into full effect by the fall, he said.
Until the information is public, Cathers said he couldn’t discuss details.
“It would be premature to say exactly what will be in the regulations because they are draft regulations. Once the Department of Community Services have done their work, those will be presented by me to cabinet.”
He did say there would be specific requirements that require landlords to exercise a higher duty of care. The Rusk family lived in a rented home.
“Additionally, you will see both through the act, and when the regulations are in place, specific provisions stipulating when a certified oil-fired mechanic would be required to apply for a permit before any installation or modifications.”
Cathers wouldn’t say if recommendations from the jury for such things as maintenance inspection stickers, improved public files on heating systems, and the permitting process are being considered.
Updated legislation was recommended in reports both before and after the Porter Creek tragedy. The inquest jury then recommended that those report recommendations be implemented.
The new laws require that all installation and modification of furnaces be done by a certified oil-burner mechanic.
However, no accreditation is required to perform maintenance on existing furnaces, despite the fact that the government’s own working group called for that to be included.
Cathers says the government is strongly encouraging people to have their systems looked at by a qualified person, but believes it’s unrealistic to legally mandate it.
“One of the things that they heard from in several communities is the availability of tradespeople, particularly in cases where the heating system breaks down at -40 in rural communities. It may not always be possible to get someone with red seal certification to service that in a timely manner. Of course, at that temperature there can be other serious consequences that can occur.”
It remains unclear how many properly trained journeyman mechanics exist in the territory.
Government records indicate there are 15 registered oil-burner apprentices and a total of 75 oil-burner journeypersons who have been registered in Yukon since 1983. There is no way to say how many professionals are currently working in the territory.
The government has promised an online list will eventually be made available to the public.
Government spokesperson Elaine Schiman confirmed a list of qualified tradespeople will also be part of the regulations.
“The list will provide the public with the names of all certified oil-burner mechanics who are eligible to obtain permits to install oil-burner appliances and their related equipment,” she said.
Courses offering various levels of training are run out of Yukon College.
College spokesperson Michael Vernon said this type of training is aimed at people who are already working in the field.
Eight students completed the level one training last year from August to October, he said. Three students completed level two training later that year and became certified journeypersons.
On top of that, eight students are currently enrolled in an online training course.
Vernon said four students are currently enrolled in level one training at the college. That is scheduled to wrap up in April. A level two course will follow. Six students are registered.
“Advanced Education and the college are currently talking about the training schedule for next year, 2014-2015. Right now we anticipate we will be doing this again,” he said.
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