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Shed explosion claims life of BC volunteer firefighter

ENDERBY, BC (Canadian OH&S News)


ENDERBY, BC (Canadian OH&S News)

One firefighter has died and another was injured following an explosion at a construction site in Enderby, British Columbia.

At about 4 am on December 29, 2011, firefighters from the Enderby and District Volunteer Fire Department were called out to a construction site at Sperlich Log Construction Inc, a builder of log homes. Shortly after 5 am, when it appeared the fire was under control, there was an explosion in a shed attached to a main structure on the site, says Gordon Molendyk, a spokesman for the Vernon/North Okanagan detachment of the RCMP.

Molendyk reports that the firefighters were in the “mop-up” stage of the fire at the time. “There was still fire, but they were… just making sure that last little bit [was] out when that explosion took place,” he says.

The explosion claimed the life of Captain Daniel Botkin, 25, and left another firefighter with the 24-person fire department with non-life-threatening injuries, says Barbara McLintock, a strategic programs coroner with the BC Coroners Service. The injured firefighter is recuperating at home, Molendyk adds.

The coroners service is investigating to determine the cause of the fire and explosion, along with the RCMP, the Office of the Fire Commissioner and WorkSafeBC.

Donna Freeman, director of media relations with WorkSafeBC, said on January 4 that while the workplace safety board is investigating the incident and occupational health and safety officers are on the scene, they have had “only limited access” to the site.

Main structure on work site has been dismantled

Molendyk adds that WorkSafeBC has brought in an engineer to ensure the site was safe to enter and to provide direction on how to dismantle the structure. “They have torn down the main structure which allows them to get in and around other areas of interest for the investigation,” he says.

“Firefighters set an incredible standard of heroism,” says BC Premier Christy Clark in a statement. “They run toward dangers when the rest of us flee. And they respond to each call knowing they may risk their lives in order to save others.”

The funeral for Botkin was held on January 5 in the 3,000-person community of Enderby, Molendyk says, with firefighters from as far away as Duncan, BC, Didsbury, Alberta and the state of Washington in attendance.