The City of Cranbrook conducted a safety audit of local arenas after a tragic accident in Fernie took the lives of three people. Townsman file photo.

Cranbrook arena closed after ice plant failure

Ice plant shut down after ammonia detected, no injuries or risk of harm to public: City

The Cranbrook Memorial Arena has been closed indefinitely by city staff after a breakdown of the chiller in the ice-making process that was detected on Thursday morning.

The City says actions by staff, including arena personnel and emergency services, who utilized their training and safety procedures, quickly de-escalated the issue with no risk of any harm to the public.

“Arena staff were starting up the plant late Wednesday, Aug. 22 to begin the ice making process,” says Stacy Paulsen, Facility Operations Manager with the City of Cranbrook. “On Thursday morning Aug. 23, staff discovered the ammonia levels in the chiller unit of the plant were low and the brine in the arena floor was tested.

“Ammonia was discovered mixed in with the brine and staff quickly shutdown the ice-making system and alerted emergency services. I am extremely proud how well our staff handled this event, and I really want to thank our Fire & Emergency Services who ensured everyone’s safety through this entire process.”

READ: Cranbrook reviewing arena facility operations

Agencies such as Cranbrook Fire & Emergency Services, WorkSafeBC, Technical Safety BC and Cimco – the City’s refrigeration contractor all responded, according to a press release.

Fire & Emergency Services quickly secured the area ensuring all staff were accounted for and out of the building. There was no release of ammonia into the atmosphere and there was never any harm or threat of harm to the public or nearby residences and businesses.

The chiller system has been completely drained of ammonia and it has been safely removed from the site and is being transported for proper disposal.

The City said all alarms and safety devices in place at the arena responded as designed.

“I want to acknowledge the efforts undertaken by City staff to quickly identify the issue and safely shut down the system in the Memorial Arena,” says Wayne Price, Director of Cranbrook Fire & Emergency Services. “Staff relied on their training and worked through their procedures properly. This situation was handled exactly the way it should have been. The efforts of staff were exceptional.”

There is no way to tell what exactly happened with the chiller unit, according to information provided to the City by Technical Safety BC, however the city says equipment failures can happen any time, regardless of it’s age.

The chiller unit in the Memorial Arena was scheduled to be replaced in 2019, but city staff are working to source a new unit to bring the ice-making plant back online.

The City says safety of the public, arena user groups, and staff is top priority, and with the arena now secure, operations have shifted to repairing the Memorial Arena ice plant.

READ: Hundreds attend community memorial in Fernie

The City says it will work with all provincial regulatory bodies and other municipal departments to review systems in the other arenas as an extra security measure. Last year, City staff conducted a safety audit following a tragic accident in Fernie that took the lives of three people following an ammonia leak at the community arena.

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