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N.B. firefighters warned of lawsuit threat

posted May 28, 2012, 4:56 AM by web tech

Former chiefs say New Brunswick should take action

CBC News
Firefighters need more protection against legal action, according to a former chief in New Brunswick.

Doug Hamer, who used to be chief in Riverview and who served in the department for 37 years, said he is concerned about the number of cases being filed against fire departments and crews in Ontario.

He told the New Brunswick Fire Chiefs Association convention in Fredericton this weekend that the trend is heading east and the group should lobby the province for legislation against frivolous lawsuits.

"I'm not saying I'm condoning improper or unsafe action. But what we're talking about here today are lawyers or bureaucrats who are looking at what you're doing at 2 o'clock morning, based on your training and experience, and then doing the Monday morning quarterbacking and trying to pick you apart and ruin your department or ruin your lives," he said.

"Before this Pandora's box opens down east here, the NBFCA [must] get up to speed with the government and legislatively make sure that you have some liability protection so you don't see those kinds of things happening in New Brunswick."

'It's really nauseating'

Two other former New Brunswick fire chiefs at the convention, Rob Simonds of Saint John and Bruce Morrison of Oromocto and Moncton, agreed that there should be liability protection for fire departments and crews in the province.

They also said the province should come up with legislation to cover potential legal action against them.

"It's really nauseating to think about this," said Simonds.

He said in Ontario, there are more and more cases going to court because of unforeseen events that happen during a fire.

"When many of us started our careers in fire services, we did our level best. People thanked us for our efforts, and whatever shortcomings we had, people forgave us for that. What we have now, particularly in Ontario, is that we've got lawyers in the corner salivating," he said.

Coming to Atlantic Canada?

Simonds predicted the apparent trend of taking firefighters to court will hit Atlantic Canada and he said there's not enough legal protection for fire crews.

Both Hamer and Simonds say there's no excuse for improper or unsafe actions, but fire crews must be protected legally from incidents that are out of their control.

It was not clear what cases the fire chiefs were referring to, but in 2009 a Timmins, Ont., family sued the local department, police department and the city after their son was electrocuted.

In 2008, a Nova Scotia volunteer fire department was sued over response to a house fire. In 2007, a Vancouver woman sued the local fire department over damage to her home.

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