In the aftermath of the tragedy that claimed three lives at Fernie Memorial Arena, the RDCK is undertaking additional inspections of its arenas’ ice-making facilities.
While the Fernie incident remains under investigation, the deaths appear to have been caused by an ammonia leak. The heavier-than-air and highly toxic gas is commonly used in refrigeration plants, or ice-making systems in arenas.
“At this time the cause of the accident in the City of Fernie’s arena is unknown. However, the RDCK understands that the public may have some questions regarding the operation of our arenas,” the regional district said in a recent press release.
Joe Chirico, RDCK general manager of regional community services and former manager of Creston District & Community Complex, said on Thursday that a local refrigeration specialist will be conducting an inspection “again” at the John Bucyk Arena.
“He will also go through all of our safety procedures one more time,” he said. “Since our major system upgrade in 2004 nearly every year we have made upgrades or improvements. We have a very advanced system.”
All operators of refrigeration facilities will be watching the Fernie investigation closely, he said.
“We don’t know what happened in Fernie. If we find out something that we haven’t anticipated, we will act immediately.”
According the RDCK press release, all refrigeration plant rooms in its arenas—Nelson, Creston and Castlegar—have been “risk assessed” by the Provincial Safety Authority. The refrigeration plant rooms in each of the facilities are isolated from the rest of the building.
“The plant rooms are monitored (24/7), alarmed, operated through direct digital control and designed to discharge an ammonia leak to (the) atmosphere to ensure that the ammonia is dispersed in a safe manner,” the release said. “Refrigeration systems have code required safeties that are designed to ensure safe operation of equipment.
“The RDCK has a robust safety program including regular maintenance by qualified contractors.”