Ucluelet Mayor says community cooperation allowed for smooth downtown evacuation

Ucluelet’s downtown core was evacuated Wednesday afternoon because of an ammonia leak.

Ucluelet Mayor Bill Irving was in the district office around 11:30 a.m. when Ucluelet Harbour Seafoods (UHS) contacted the district’s emergency services manager Karla Robison to advise an ammonia leak had occurred at the company’s Cedar Street facility.

 The fish plant uses the gas in its processing.

"We were informed immediately and responded within minutes," Irving said.

He said communication is "huge" in an emergency situation and was thrilled with how quickly Robison sprang into action to get the district’s emergency

response rolling.

"The advantage is having a laid out clear emergency response plan so everybody knows who they have to communicate with, and when and how, and what actions to take as priorities," Irving said.

"You don’t have to make it up as you go, you already know what has to happen and everybody just kicks into gear."

Ucluelet’s fire chief Ted Eeftink took the lead and, after assessing the extent of the ammonia leak, called for an evacuation of Ucluelet’s downtown core.

Eeftink’s fire crew was joined by RCMP and the district’s public works team to evacuate the area surrounding Ucluelet’s district office, Ucluelet Aquarium and Ukee Dogs with road blocks set up to prevent anyone from entering the danger zone.

"The call was made to be very conservative and be overly cautious rather than underly cautious," Irving said.

"Generally public works isn’t called in right off the top because they don¹t have that emergency training per se, but because it was the middle of the day and everybody was busy we needed people there right away and they were available."

The RCMP and Coast Guard Auxiliary hit the water to keep kayakers and boaters out of the nearby harbour.

Irving thanked the community for its cooperation during the evacuation.

"We would like to extend our thanks to the businesses and organizations in the area; when they were asked to close down and vacate they acted very quickly and we very much need that kind of cooperation and appreciate it," he said.

UHS closed off the leak within an hour and a half of it occurring but downtown access was restricted for an extra hour to ensure no ammonia risk was lurking, according to Irving who added ammonia is a heavy gas that lays low.

"We were extra cautious," he said. "From the district’s perspective we’re very satisfied that there’s no residual ammonia."

He commended UHS for making the district aware of the situation and putting a stop to the leak in short order.

"That’s their responsibility and they, I think, dealt with it reasonably quickly," Irving said. "We very much appreciated, from our perspective, the plant’s responsibility there."

He said ammonia leaks are not common in Ucluelet and the district will be paying close attention to follow up reports.

"In the 30 years I’ve been here I can only recall two other incidents that have occurred so it’s very rare," he said. "WorkSafe(BC) will follow up and the different provincial (and) federal agencies will follow up and we’ll be part of that review so that we can be aware of issues and know how to respond even better in the future."

When the event concluded and downtown reopened the district’s emergency response team debriefed at the Fire Hall.

"There’s a real appreciation of the quick response and responsible attitude and there’s also an understanding that there’s a few things we can do better," Irving said.

"In this case it was pretty sharp but you always feel you can tighten things up a little bit…It was an excellent response from our crew in the middle of a busy day."

With media outlets reporting on the event nationwide, Irving was proud of the way his team performed in the spotlight.

"These kind of incidents do get a lot of media profile and I think it’s reassuring for the public to see the whole process unfold," he said. "It gives them some confidence that there is a process in place to take care of these kind of things."

reporter@westerlynews.ca

Just Posted

Ucluelet mayor thanks team at last meeting

Dianne St. Jacques is not running for re-election this month.

‘Police are ready’ for legal pot, say Canadian chiefs

But Canadians won’t see major policing changes as pot becomes legal

VIDEO: Rescued eagle released in Ucluelet

“I’m very confident that he’s going to make it. He’s done very well.”

Ahousaht Fire Department always at the ready

“Under stressful situations we come out at our best.”

Tofino honours volunteer firefighters with award

To have the community support you, say ‘Thank you,’ and recognize you, just really means an awful lot

VIDEO: First legal cannabis purchases as midnight strikes in eastern Canada

Newfoundland and Labrador was the first province to kick off the sale of cannabis, just after midnight local time

Boeser tallies in OT as Canucks beat Penguins 3-2

Vancouver wins without star rookie Pettersson

Mayor of Kamloops says ‘history has been made’ with vote on B.C.’s lone pot shop

The store to be run by the province in B.C.’s Interior is opening Wednesday as pot sales become legal across Canada

New bus route to ‘replace’ Greyhound along Trans-Canada Highway

Rider Express Transportation says they will soon begin a bus service from Winnipeg to Vancouver

U.S. pot firm urges Trump to deny Canadian producers ‘competitive advantage’

The challenge for U.S. firms lies in the fact that while recreational cannabis is legal in nine states and medicinal pot in 22 others, it remains illegal under federal law

Government says imprisoned Canadian terror suspects must face consequences

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale showed little sympathy Tuesday for such individuals who now want to return to Canada

How rules for inmate segregation in Canada will change under Bill C-83

Federal government proposing changes to rules around inmates in federal correctional institutions

Canada Post union issues strike notice; rotating strikes could begin Monday

Union says rotating strikes will begin if agreements aren’t reached with bargaining units

Duncan play faces challenges even before first performance as thieves strike

Thefts hamper Deathtrap days before opening at Mercury Theatre

Most Read