The games centre’s fire sequel

Almost six months after a fire closed the Canada Games Centre, staff were putting the final touches on repairs this week. That is, until they saw smoke. "We're at a point where we're hanging art work, we're getting ready...

Almost six months after a fire closed the Canada Games Centre, staff were putting the final touches on repairs this week.

That is, until they saw smoke.

“We’re at a point where we’re hanging art work, we’re getting ready to see the tail end of this and then to face the prospect of potentially more delay and more damage, is at best a difficult thing,” said facility manager Art Manhire.

The smoke was spotted flowing out of the air vents at the back of the building, on Wednesday.

Staff pulled the fire alarm, marshaled people to distant areas and, fire extinguishers in hand, went back into the exact arena where the fire took place in June.

Fortunately, the fire was contained within an air handling unit.

Above an office space between the two arenas is a massive wheel that collects moisture from the air. Behind it is a heater to dry that moisture and shoot the hot air out the back vents.

“It appears that the wheel wasn’t turning when the heater turned on so therefore it over-heated and caught fire,” said fire Chief Clive Sparks. “We don’t know why it wasn’t turning. It was a pretty minor fire in the scheme of things. There was not a huge amount of damage.”

On Wednesday, it looked as if only the $45,000 wheel would have to be replaced.

It was a new part, custom-made in the United States, which took months to get to the centre to replace the old one after the first fire.

However, if it is determined that the fire was caused due to a manufacturing error, it should be replaced free of charge.

And it won’t cause any more delay to the re-opening of the ATCO ice, said Manhire.

With this current, cooler weather, it is possible to use both rinks with only one of two wheels wheel running, he said. After closing Wednesday because of concerns of heightened levels of carbon monoxide, the Northwestel ice was opened again on Thursday and the ATCO arena should be ready for use by the end of November.

“We had actually started cooling the floor to lay ice down,” said Manhire. “The floor was at 34 degrees and you can start laying ice at 28, so we were just a few hours away from starting to be able to lay ice down in there.

“Once we’ve cleaned the floor, we can fire up the plant, cool it, and start making ice again.”

On Thursday, one of the two teenagers charged with starting the June fire in the centre appeared in youth court.

They were scheduled to enter their plea on the charge of arson.

With much hesitation and discontent, the judge agreed to give the defence until November 24 to enter a plea.

This isn’t the first extension.

Crown prosecutor Bonnie Macdonald raised concerns over the delay, as she did on October 6.

Defence lawyer Malcolm Campbell is waiting for more information, he said.

The charges are severe, as are their consequences, and having this particular information is crucial before entering a plea, he said, without explaining what the information was about.

Campbell and Macdonald disagreed from the start on how to handle this case, which added time to the lengthy process, he added.

The other youth, who was also charged with one count of arson, has already pleaded guilty and is expected back in court for disposition December 9.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at