Burn baby, burn busted
Function Junctions' biggest wiener roast has been called off.
A live burn was scheduled for Sunday morning at 10 a.m. at 1070 Millar Creek Road, but Whistler Fire Chief Tony Evans has postponed the exercise indefinitely because of concerns from a Function Junction business owner.
A retail clothing warehouse is located about 200 metres from the building to be burned and the owner was worried about the possibility of smoke damage to stock in the warehouse. He advised Evans the municipality could be liable if drifting smoke stunk out the warehouse and damaged stock.
"As a director of the municipality I cannot risk putting the municipality in that position," Evans says. "In light of that development we have decided to postpone the exercise."
The live burn exercise is designed to give novice firefighters a chance to experience fighting a house fire first-hand, experience which is invaluable, Evans says.
The last live burn exercise took place in 1993 when the fire department torched the old Garibaldi Building Supplies building at Mons. During the exercise a cloud a dark smoke drifted over the crowd which had gathered to watch the fire.
A number of people were concerned about the amount of smoke and toxic chemicals which may have been released into the air during the fire. Letters to the editor were written and one person went so far as to hold a demonstration in front of the fire hall charging Evans and the rest of the fire department with environmental terrorism.
Ken Melamed, president of the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment, says the only way AWARE will support any more controlled burn exercises is if they are allowed to inspect the building prior to the fire, to scope out any possible toxic material in the building.
Melamed says the biggest concern is with any PVC plastic that may be on carpet backing, glue, plastic pipe and wire covering.
"PVC releases dioxins in large quantities when it burns and they are considering banning all building materials that contain PVC in Europe," he says.
Prior to the cancellation Melamed and Evans had planned a tour of the building, now unnecessary. Melamed says AWARE would oppose on principle anything that releases dioxins into the atmosphere, but the firefighter training is a necessity.
"You can't really argue about having a well-trained fire department if you want to feel safe about living in Whistler," he says.
Dave Kirk, a partner in the company which owns the building, says they worked over a period of "four to five months" to find someone to move the building, but it became a logistical problem.
"My preference would be to have the building taken away, but that would mean every hydro and telephone line between the present address and the future address would have to be taken down," Kirk says. Following the cancellation of the burn, word had it an interested party in Function Junction wanted to move the building to a new Function location.
The house has to be moved or destroyed to make room for a new retail/warehouse building.