Tummel Holdings Ltd. was in territorial court Tuesday to deal with violations of the Whitehorse Emergency Services Bylaw and Fire Prevention Act at the Skyline Apartments in Riverdale.
Wayne Smyth, the Yukon Deputy Fire Marshal, and Chris Gree, the Whitehorse deputy fire chief, presented the case against Tummel to Judge Karen Ruddy.
Tummel was originally facing three charges:
• failure to comply with the fire code;
• failing to provide assistance during an inspection; and
• failing to maintain a record of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors at the 37 Lewes Blvd. property.
Smyth put in a request to withdraw the failure to comply with the fire code charge.
He explained that the remaining two charges should be enough to resolve the case.
Ruddy accepted the request, and the charge was withdrawn. She asked for Tummel’s plea afterward.
Meagan Hannam, the lawyer representing Tummel, said the company would plead guilty. The court could proceed to sentencing as early as next Tuesday, Hannam added.
Ruddy accepted the plea.
In an interview after court, Smyth said that charges coming out of the Fire Prevention Act are rare. It’s also unusual to have to bring a case to court to get compliance from building owners.
To his knowledge, Smyth said, this is only the second time charges have had to be laid as per the Fire Protection Act.
“It seems that this is a very unusual circumstance,” he said.
Under the usual process, the fire department would work with the property owner in an effort to get compliance on whatever issues are brought up.
In the event that the property owner does not co-operate, a written order of compliance would be issued.
If nothing changes, a verbal warning would be given next, followed by a written warning and an order to comply.
Smyth said those steps did not work in this case, and he felt the issues were severe enough to be brought before the court.
“That happened a couple of times in this case,” Smyth said.
Because the building owner did not comply, the city decided to pursue the owner on charges under the Fire Protection Act and Emergency Services Bylaw.
Smyth ran through the two charges before the court.
When the fire department decides to inspect a property, he explained, the owner is required to provide assistance throughout the inspection.
The day the review was scheduled, fire department representatives arrived at the Lewes Boulevard building only to find no one from Tummel was present.
The second charge relates to having the proper safety equipment.
Smyth said that smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and exit lights, for examples, are all vital structural pieces that need to be in place for the safety of tenants of large apartment buildings.
When these are not maintained or not present, he pointed out, it puts everyone’s safety at risk.
Green added that the city has experienced problems with fires in the past. The city felt this would be the best way to mitigate the fire risks at the Skyline Apartments.
“This has been problematic for some time,” Green said.
Skyline is the only building owned by Tummel in Whitehorse, according to Smyth.
He feels Tummel is taking the charges seriously and is taking tenant safety to heart.
“We are very pleased with how things have progressed in the last month or so,” Smyth said.