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UPDATED: Rescue teams work to develop safe entry strategy

The RCMP investigation remains active into an ammonia leak at the Fernie Memorial Arena Tuesday.

Wednesday evening in a media release the City of Fernie said the Emergency Response team has continued to work with hazmat and air monitoring experts RAM Environmental out of Kelowna and GHD from Calgary, Worksafe BC and Interior Health and have developed a strategy to gain safe entry to the building.

"Entry was made on the west side of the building today where it was deemed safe. Levels on the east side of the building remain high and not safe for entry at this time. The RCMP investigation remains active. ESS was open today and evacuees have been provided accommodation for a second night."

"The evacuation area remains unchanged," the release added.

City of Fernie develops plan to safely enter facility

In a media release Wednesday afternoon, the City of Fernie said the precautionary evacuation order remains in place around Fernie Memorial Arena this afternoon as a specialized hazardous materials team continues to work with City of Fernie Fire and Emergency Services to contain an ammonia leak inside the arena.

“The primary focus at this time is developing a plan to secure safe access to the facility, which has been closed since yesterday afternoon when Fernie Fire and Rescue responded to the scene,” says City of Fernie Communications Coordinator Liz Rhodes.

“Crews are also completing perimeter checks of the levels in the air around the building.”

Late this morning, the City confirmed two of the three fatalities involved City of Fernie employees and, at the request of the families, their names are not being publicly released.  

The City is urging residents and media to respect the privacy of the affected families and staff during this difficult time.

“Fernie is a tight-knit community and I know we will pull together to support one another as we have in the past,” says Mayor Mary Guiliano. “The City is arranging for support to the families and our workers to help manage the grief and emotions we are all feeling.”

Residents in the affected area who have been evacuated are being offered accommodation at a local hotel until the evacuation order has been lifted and the Emergency Reception Centre remains set up at the Senior Citizens Drop-In Centre. 

Just before 1 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, Fernie Fire Rescue responded to a medical assist call as a result of an anhydrous ammonia leak at the arena.  Upon arrival, they found a citizen performing CPR on one individual who was immediately relocated and put in the care of the BC Ambulance Service.   Upon entering the building for an interior search, crews found two additional victims deceased and had to exit the building due to the hazardous environment.   The scene was secured and the preliminary evacuation order issued until the leak can be contained.

“Information will continue to be provided as it becomes available and the first step in that process will be when crews are able to access the building and fully assess the scene,” adds Rhodes. WorkSafe BC, the Hazardous Materials Team from Calgary, Ministry of Environment and Interior Health are all in Fernie working with our Emergency Response Team and City staff to develop a plan to gain safe entry.

“I would like to thank our First Responders and the entire Emergency Response Team for their efforts in dealing with this extraordinary situation,” adds Giuliano. “The professionalism and coordination between City forces (particularly Fernie Fire Rescue), the RCMP, Regional District and our Provincial resources, to ensure all the steps necessary were taken to respond to this extremely dangerous situation has been outstanding.”

An information line with a recorded message detailing the latest information has been set up at 1-855-346-2188.

Fernie declares State of Local Emergency

In a media release Tuesday, the City of Fernie declared a State of Local Emergency due to a hazardous materials release threat to property and life.

The media release on the City of Fernie website said the State of Local Emergency will remain in effect for seven days — until October 24, 2017 at midnight — unless cancelled by order of the City of Fernie or the Minister responsible.

Residents in the evacuation area have been provided overnight accommodations.

Emergency Social Services will reopen in the morning if required.

No new information was released regarding the ammonia leak at Fernie Memorial Arena that has claimed three people Tuesday in the East Kootenay.

Late Tuesday, Kootenay Columbia MP Wayne Stetski issued a release regarding the tragic event.

"I am so sorry to hear about the three deaths resulting from the ammonia leak at the Fernie arena," said Stetski, who has been in contact with Fernie Mayor Mary Giuliano.

"My sincere condolences to the family and friends of those who died, and to the people of Fernie."

Three confirmed dead after ammonia leak at Fernie Memorial Arena

The City of Fernie is reeling from an ammonia leak at Fernie Memorial Arena that has claimed three people Tuesday in the East Kootenay.

A release on the City of Fernie website said emergency crews remain on scene responding to an ammonia leak at the hockey arena.

"The site has been secured, however crews are still unable to safely enter the facility," the website said. "At this time, three fatalities have been confirmed."

The website said no further details are available pending identification and notification of next of kin.

"CIMCO Refrigeration is on scene assisting City crews," the website said.

"The City is working to acquire additional specialized resources to deal with the hazardous situation."

The website said the evacuation will continue for residents in the evacuation area until the City is able to contain the leak.

All homes between 9th Street and 13th Street and Highway 3 and 6th Ave have been evacuated. Red Apple, 7-Eleven, and Trinity Lodge are included in the evacuation.

Residents who live in the evacuated area are asked to report to Emergency Social Services at the Senior Citizens Drop-In Centre (562 3rd Avenue). 

Ammonia is a colourless gas often used as an industrial refrigerant which has can be immediately dangerous to life or health.