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Local arena officials wait to find out what happened in Fernie

 

BY BILL PHILLIPS

bill@pgdailynews.ca

The tragedy at the Fernie Memorial Arena last week has sent shockwaves through those who maintain local arenas.

However, until it’s known exactly what led to an ammonia leak that resulted in the deaths of three men, local arena staff will continue the rigorous maintenance and testing of local refrigeration plants that they have always employed.

“I anticipate some changes,” said Wade Loukes, manager of community arenas for the City of Prince George. “It’s challenging for the arena business, but we can’t react until we know what happened.”

Loukes added the local arenas, as in any community, operate under the auspices of the B.C. Safety Authority and also work closely with WorkSafeBC. In Fernie, two city workers and a refrigeration technician were killed as they were investigating a suspected ammonia leak.

“We’ve heard of incidents (where there is a leak),” said Loukes. “But never any fatalities.”

Loukes said each local arena has its own refrigeration plant and those plants are monitored constantly.

“We have certified staff that do checks every two hours,” he said, adding if something is outside the acceptable parameters, they would contact the fire department, which is certified to deal with hazardous materials. The city would also bring in a refrigeration contractor, and there is one based in Prince George, to repair anything that needs fixing.

In Fernie, staff was alerted by an alarm. Loukes said local arenas are also outfitted with alarms. He said if concentrations are lower than 35 parts per million, staff can enter the building to investigate. Once concentrations exceed 35 parts per million, he said, louvres open and exhaust fans will vent the air. If concentrations exceed 300 parts per million, then no entry is allowed.

“Worker and public safety are first and foremost,” he said.
He said the city also has a good preventative maintenance program and equipment is routinely replaced and updated.

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