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Evacuated Winnipeg hotel had no carbon monoxide detectors: report


November 26, 2019
By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press

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WINNIPEG—A hotel that was evacuated last summer due to a carbon monoxide leak had no carbon monoxide detectors, contrary to the provincial fire code, says Manitoba’s Office of the Fire Commissioner.

About one-quarter of other hotels in the province also lacked detectors at the time because of confusion over the rules, Municipal Relations Minister Rochelle Squires said Friday.

“There was a lot of misunderstanding and some confusion between the Winnipeg fire prevention branch (and) the office of the fire commissioner in regards to the regulation that required carbon monoxide detection units in motels,” Squires said.

“I want to assure everyone that our government is taking action to ensure that fire codes and building codes and the carbon monoxide requirement is being enforced … so that people’s lives will not be put in danger.”

The leak at a Super 8 hotel in Winnipeg on July 9 sent 46 people to hospital, although there were no serious injuries.

A summary of the fire commissioner’s preliminary report says carbon monoxide from a hot water boiler was being pulled back into the hotel’s air exchange instead of being vented.

“Replicating incident conditions found that the mechanical room was likely in a negative pressure, which caused gases to stay in the building rather than rising and exhausting out the chimney,” the summary says.

Some hotel guests said they were feeling dizzy and nauseous before the evacuation.

The day after the leak, fire officials said carbon monoxide levels had reached as high as 385 parts per million—exponentially higher than levels at which the gas can become dangerous with prolonged exposure.

Hotels in Manitoba are inspected on a 36-month cycle. The Super 8 was inspected in May 2018 and was deemed to meet all requirements, Squires said.

The province has since clarified with municipal inspectors and others that carbon monoxide detectors are required. The Super 8 and other hotels have installed them, she added.

“I have been assured that all hotels in the province of Manitoba are now in compliance with the requirement to have CO detection units.”

The chief of the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service, John Lane, said there was uncertainty over the requirement for detectors. But he said there was also a mix-up in the 2018 inspection at the Super 8—the inspection had noted the presence of a CO detector, but was wrong.

“What had been classified as a carbon monoxide detector in 2018, and again immediately following the (gas leak), was in fact a different type of detector—a flammable gas detector.”

Squires blamed the former NDP government for the confusion over the requirement for CO detectors. It failed to communicate and enforce the regulation when it was enacted in 2011, she said.

NDP Leader Wab Kinew, who was first elected to the legislature in the 2016 election won by the Progressive Conservatives, said the Tories must shoulder the blame.

“This happened years into their own mandate. Why don’t they take responsibility for the fact that this happened under their watch?” Kinew said.

The fire commissioner’s office is still working on a final report.

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2019