Grand Forks Fire and Rescue trucks. (Facebook photo)

Grand Forks fire department under investigation for alleged bullying and harassment

WorkSafeBC prevention officer conducts inspection after firefighter makes report

The Grand Forks fire department is at the centre of a WorkSafeBC investigation, after a firefighter claimed he was bullied for bringing forward a number of safety concerns.

The volunteer firefighter, who spoke to Black Press Media on the condition of anonymity, said in a phone interview Wednesday that his concerns included the department’s failure to conduct annual tests for hose equipment and fitness tests for crews. Both are recommended as national standards, as hose material can degrade as it ages and annual fitness tests ensure members equipment is up to standards, specifically their self containing breathing seal.

The firefighter said he brought the matter to Fire Chief Dale Heriot’s attention via email in March, and the city’s chief administrative officer in April. He said the city hired an HR consultant to speak with him and any other firefighters willing to express safety or other concerns.

As the HR investigation went on, he said, tensions began to rise. He said he was excluded from fire calls and no longer scheduled for shifts. That’s when he made a report with WorkSafeBC.

“I asked the questions and I clearly struck a nerve,” he said.

The city’s deputy corporate officer, Kevin McKinnon, who is also a fire captain, confirmed the city had hired an external HR consultant, but did not provide further details.

“The city’s main objective has been to follow the necessary steps in accordance with City policies and guided by the HR consultant in order to conduct a fair, respectful, and thorough process,” McKinnon said in an emailed statement. “This matter is still under investigation and it is the city’s policy to not discuss personnel matters publicly.”

According to the WorkSafeBC inspection report, a prevention officer attended the fire hall on April 18 to investigate alleged bullying and harassment. The officer did not observe any violations during the visit, and requested the HR consultant’s findings by April 29.

It is not clear if the city provided the report by that time. According to emails obtained by Black Press Media, the report is with the city’s legal team.

McKinnon said the consultant’s report is expected to be presented at an in-camera council meeting in the coming weeks.

McKinnon confirmed that while the prevention officer was on site, several safety issues were identified, including the concerns initially brought forward by the firefighter.

He said that pressure tests on the fire hoses as well as hearing tests for the crew are underway, and that WorkSafeBC also ordered further tests of the face seals on each firefighter’s self-contained breathing apparatus.

Heriot did not respond to several requests for comment.

Mayor Brian Taylor declined to comment and referred all requests back to McKinnon.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Snow expected to hit West Kootenay passes overnight on Thursday

Up to 15 cm of snow could fall on Highway 3 between Paulson summit to Kootenay Pass by Friday morning

Former Grand Forks fire chief suing city for wrongful dismissal

Dale Heriot was fired in July 2019 after his department was investigated for safety, bullying issues

Regional District of Kootenay Boundary seeks online feedback on transit, housing

Surveys on the RDKB’s website are asking for input to help plan for the future

School District 51 staff iron out plan for return to classrooms

Teachers are looking for a comprehensive health and safety plan to be in place before June 1

LIVE: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

Ex-BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver says province came close to early election

Disagreement centred on the LNG Canada project in northern B.C.

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money

B.C. premier says lessons to learn from past racism during response to pandemic

B.C. formally apologized in the legislature chamber in 2008 for its role in the Komagata Maru tragedy

Snowbirds to remain at Kamloops Airport indefinitely after fatal crash

small contingent of the Snowbirds team is staying in Kamloops, acting as stewards of the jets

Oak Bay man stumbles upon eagle hunting seal, grabs camera just in time

The eagle did ‘a perfect butterfly stroke to shore’ with its prey, photographer says

Most Read