Evacuation order lifted in Fernie, days after deadly arena gas leak

On Sunday, officials announced that the evacuation order for 55 homes and businesses immediately around the Fernie Memorial Arena had been lifted. Meanwhile, a community memorial is being planned for the three men who died following an ammonia leak at the rink.

95 people will be allowed to return home following Tuesday's ammonia leak

An evacuation order in Fernie, in place since Oct. 17, has been lifted. Fernie's arena, which is home to a junior hockey team, and its community centre remain closed. (CBC)

Nearly a week after a deadly gas leak at the ice rink in Fernie, B.C., dozens of evacuees forced from the area are being allowed to go home.

On Sunday, officials announced that the evacuation order for 55 homes and businesses immediately around the Fernie Memorial Arena had been lifted. 

"The situation at the arena has stabilized and the experts on scene are now comfortable that there is no longer an ammonia threat at the arena," Fire Chief Ted Ruiter said in a statement.

Still, Ruiter says the salt-water brine in the arena — an ice-making solution — was contaminated with ammonia and needs to be disposed of at a hazardous materials site.

A total of 95 people were told to leave their homes for safety reasons on Tuesday.

Ted Ruiter, Fernie's director of fire and emergency services, seen here addressing the media on Oct. 19, said on Sunday that no health risks or hazards from ammonia exist in the city. (Lauren Krugel/Canadian Press)

Ruiter said air quality is continuing to be monitored, although residents may notice a slight ammonia smell near the arena.

"We want to assure [the public] there are no risks or health hazards," the fire chief said.

Three men died Tuesday after an ammonia leak at the rink. They were later identified as Wayne Hornquist, Lloyd Smith and Jason Podloski.

Hornquist and Smith worked for the City of Fernie, while Podloski was a Calgary-based employee of CIMCO Refrigeration.

Community memorial planned

The small Rocky Mountain community declared a six-day local state of emergency after the incident.

City operations were paused Friday to give employees time to grieve, and counsellors have been made available for residents.

Ruiter said the arena and community centre will remain closed to the public as WorkSafeBC leads an investigation into the deaths.

If the agency determines there was a criminal aspect to the incident, the investigation will be turned over to the RCMP.

Meanwhile, Norm McInnis with the City of Fernie says a community memorial is being planned for the three men who died.

"This memorial will give us the collective opportunity to come together as a community, to honour three amazing men to support their families and each other," McInnis said on Sunday, choking back tears.

McInnis said the memorial will likely be held in early November.