Today marked two years since the tragic ammonia leak at Fernie Memorial Arena. The City of Fernie lowered their flags to half mast in remembrance. City of Fernie/Facebook

Two years later, City of Fernie remembers

Oct. 17, 2019 marks two years since the tragic ammonia leak at Fernie Memorial Arena

Today the City of Fernie (COF) gathered to remember the three men lost two years ago in an ammonia leak at Fernie Memorial Arena.

COF interim CAO Don Schaffer said the loss of Wayne Hornquist, Lloyd Smith and Jason Podloski is felt every day at their organization.

This morning the City’s facilities were closed for an hour, and flags were lowered to half mast.

“It was important for all of us to close our facilities this morning and take time to remember them,” said Schaffer.

In the years since the event, Schaffer explained that the City has made significant changes to the operation of Fernie Memorial Arena.

One year ago, the arena was reopened with a new refrigeration plant that is housed outside the main building, and uses a synthetic refrigerant instead of ammonia.

Following their investigation into the Fernie incident, Technical Safety BC released 18 recommendations for arena owners, maintenance contractors, local B.C. governments, and training providers to prevent a repeat of the tragedy. They also offered a number of educational programs to augment skills and knowledge about the dangers of ammonia releases.

The organization commented on the two-year anniversary, saying they continue to emphasize the need for continued safety enhancements across industry. This, they say, reduces the potential for ammonia release incidents.

“Safety is a shared responsibility that we take very seriously,” said Technical Safety BC President and CEO, Catherine Roome.

“While the owners of these facilities are ultimately responsible for the ongoing maintenance and replacement of their equipment and ensuring their staff are trained appropriately, we have technical expertise and supporting data that can be used to help these organizations mitigate risk. We are here to support with education, resources, and training.”

City of Fernie mayor Ange Qualizza said the City supports Technical Safety BC in their continued efforts to improve safety standards for arena refrigeration plants across the Province.

“What happened in Fernie was heartbreaking for all of us,” said Qualizza. “We lost three men on Oct. 17, 2017, and the work of Technical Safety BC will ensure the lessons learned in Fernie will prevent other communities from going through a similar tragedy.”

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