Scott MacKinnon

Scott MacKinnon, the fire chief for the Cabot Volunteer Fire Department, said he's worried a family dispute is affecting fire safety at the North Highlands Elementary School. (Joan Weeks/CBC)

The fire chief of a small community in northern Cape Breton says a family dispute involving an estate is affecting fire safety at the local elementary school.

Scott MacKinnon is the fire chief for the Cabot Volunteer Fire Department, which is responsible for incidents in Cape North, near the northern tip of the Cabot Trail.

His sister-in-law is the principal at the nearby North Highlands Elementary School.

MacKinnon said the family is currently fighting over an estate and his sister-in-law's husband filed a restraining order against him. Now, MacKinnon claims his sister-in-law won't let him in the school to check the building's fire safety regulations.

"I would like to know if our hose even connects to the fire department connection on the building. I would like to know how much the sprinkler heads are flowing," said MacKinnon.

"I'd like to know if the school plans on mustering the children during a fire in the same area where I may be planning to park our fire trucks."

Charles Sheppard, a spokesman for the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, said all the required fire inspections are up-to-date and plans are in place at the school in case of an emergency.

Sheppard said he invited the chief last year to inspect the school after hours but had no response.

MacKinnon denies he's heard from the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board and said inspecting the school after hours wouldn't work.

"If you expect me to be incident commander, to take charge of the chaos that's going to take place in that school should an emergency happen, then you have to give me the tools to work with and that means I need to see the school in action," he told CBC News.

Meanwhile, Norman MacKinnon — Scott MacKinnon's brother  said he's keeping his three children home from North Highlands Elementary School until the school is inspected by fire officials.

"This isn't an argument about too much homework on the weekend," said Norman MacKinnon.

"They've got to open that line of communication up."

MacKinnon said he first complained to the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board nine months ago. He said both the school board and the fire marshal have been in contact since he spoke with CBC News.


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