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Kelowna faces negligence lawsuit over fire clean-up costs

One of the companies burned out following last summer’s massive Stewart Centre fire has filed court documents alleging negligence in the part of the fire department, but Kelowna’s fire chief says the allegation has “no merit.”
The notice of civil claim was filed in Vancouver Supreme Court in the name of Univar Canada against the City of Kelowna and members of the fire department, and has not yet been served on the city and its employees.
On July 31, 2010, a fire broke out at the Stewart Centre strip mall on Kirschner Road and burned out seven businesses and send contaminants—chemicals stored at Univar’s shop—into storm drains before landing in Mill Creek and Okanagan Lake.
In the court documents Univar—a wholesale chemical distribution company—alleges “negligence and breach of duty” of the fire department caused or contributed to the fire, ensuing contamination and Univar’s loss and damages.
They claim the fire department failed to take all appropriate actions to suppress the fire before it had the opportunity to spread to the Univar building, where the fire department “knew or ought to have know the chemicals were stored” and failed to conduct regular and appropriate pre-fire tactical inspections.
They further claim the department failed to contain or limit the discharge of chemicals, failed to ensure firefighters were properly trained in limiting the release of any contaminants into the area, and failing to heed warnings of Univar’s personnel at the fire about the potential risks associated with the chemicals at the Univar building.
When contacted by the Capital News, the fire chief didn’t give the allegations any credence.
“Our perspective would be there is no merit to this claim. This was a difficult industrial fire,” said Jeff Carlisle. Firefighters tasked with putting out the blaze “did the best they could.”
The court action indicates Univar is seeking undisclosed damages and costs.
It has been previously reported the fire caused losses to all seven businesses in the neighbourhood of $5 million and that Univar spent over $4 million on the spill cleanup.
None of the allegations have yet been proven in court and Univar has said the action was actually filed by a third party administrator on behalf of their insurer and they were not involved in the preparation of the claim.

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