Calgary

Local volunteers, Calgary Flames get Fernie, B.C., skaters on ice again 2 months after tragic ammonia leak

The people of Fernie, B.C., hosted a bittersweet celebration Thursday — the opening of a new outdoor ice rink two months after their community arena closed under tragic circumstances.

3 men in tight-knit community were killed in October while investigating alarm at local arena

An aerial view of Fernie, B.C., new outdoor arena, which was made possible by the work of dedicated local volunteers and a donation from the Calgary Flames Foundation. (Thomas Hopkins)

The people of Fernie, B.C., hosted a bittersweet celebration Thursday — the opening of a new outdoor ice rink two months after their community arena closed under tragic circumstances.

In October, an ammonia leak killed three men in the close-knit community. The town's recreational services director Lloyd Smith, 52, chief facility operator Wayne Hornquist, 59, and refrigeration specialist Jason Podloski, 46, died when investigating an alarm early in the morning on Oct. 17 at the Fernie Memorial Arena.

The NHL-sized rink came to be through a donation from the Calgary Flames Foundation and a lot of hard work from people in the community.

"We jumped at the chance because that offer meant so much at a time when the entire community was devastated. We got this wonderful piece of good news and this wonderful gesture, this great offer," said Fernie Mayor Mary Giuliano.

The Flames Foundation donated boards, penalty boxes, player benches and a time keeper box, while Fernie Lions Club co-ordinated the offer and found local businesses to donate supplies and skilled labour to the project.

A loonie was buried at centre ice, in honour of the memory of the three lives lost.

The town's rink was closed in October after three men tragically lost their lives investigating an alarm that turned out to be an ammonia leak. (Allison Dempster/CBC)

At the opening ceremony, hundreds of locals of all ages laced up to enjoy the ice, while the volunteers, who spent weeks building the arena, beamed.

"It was all about having a place for the kids to skate before Christmas. That was the driver and then here we are," said Chuck Shoesmith, who helped build the rink.

The new rink means local hockey teams and skating clubs will no longer have to drive to the B.C. towns of Elkford and Sparwood for donated ice times.

Cory Caldwell — who plays for city's minor hockey team the Ghostriders — grew up in Fernie and knows what something as simple as a rink means to the community.

"We're like any other winter town, we've got the ski hill here and everything but a majority of the activity in the winter involves the curling rink, the hockey rink … and it is our home in the wintertime," he said.

With files from Erin Collins and Allison Dempster

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