The mayor of The Pas says he was shocked and dismayed to learn Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries has joined the owner of a local hotel destroyed by arson in suing the town and a group of volunteer firefighters, alleging negligence in how the fire was fought.
The Town Centre Hotel was completely destroyed by fire July 7, 2017, after fire broke out in a pile of recycling and cardboard boxes at the back of the building.
The lawsuit, filed with the Court of Queen’s Bench March 12, names six volunteer firefighters and the town as defendants and seeks special damages, general damages, costs and interest.
According to the suit, MLL had eight video lottery terminals in the hotel bar, and the Crown corporation estimates the cost of the machines lost in the blaze at $149,600. The hotel’s owners say the building and contents were worth more than $2 million.
At the time of the fire, hotel owner Leslie Robertson told CBC News he lost three days’ worth of money that was set to go to the bank and an ATM that was stocked with cash.
“The plaintiffs say that the town and firefighters each owed them a duty to respond to the hotel’s calls for assistance in a reasonable manner, consistent with established firefighting policies and procedures, and without negligence,” reads the statement of claim. “The plaintiffs say that the defendants breached this duty.”
The fire started at the 105-year-old building at 2:42 a.m. and the town’s fire department, including the firefighters named in the suit, attended to put out the blaze.
According to the suit one or more of the firefighters “directed that the Hotel deactivate the Property’s fire alarm and sprinkler system.” Firefighters left the scene by 4:30 a.m.
But a second fire broke out in the building around 5 a.m. in what the statement of claim alleges was a rekindling of the first fire. Fire crews returned to fight the second fire but the building and its contents were ultimately destroyed.
“The second fire originated as a result of a rekindling of the first fire. The plaintiffs say that the fire department failed to properly extinguish the first fire prior to leaving the property,” reads the statement of claim.
“This failure permitted the first fire to re-ignite which subsequently caused the second fire.”
‘Just not right’
The Pas’ mayor Herb Jaques says he was disgusted to see the volunteer firefighters named in the statement of claim.
“If the province of Manitoba and the property owner want to sue the Town of The Pas because they thought we did a poor job, then sue the Town of The Pas, but don’t be suing volunteers, that’s just not right,” he told CBC News.
“It’s very upsetting … for these young guys, they risk life and limb and for the Province of Manitoba to treat them like this is inexcusable, there’s just no reason for this.”
The town has yet to file a statement of defence but Jaques says they will.
“I can guarantee you we will be very aggressive in our defence,” he said.
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