Safety company 'shocked' to learn of 65 fire code charges in Calgary

A fire safety company says it was "shocked" to be slapped with 65 charges under the Alberta Fire Code, accused of using unqualified and uncertified workers to install alarms, extinguishers and other equipment in Calgary stores and restaurants.

Premium Fire Protection alleges Calgary Fire Department didn't ask it to supply proof of certification

Premium Fire Protection Ltd., a fire safety systems company, has an office in Okotoks, Alta. (Google Maps)

A fire safety company that operates in four provinces says it is shocked that the Calgary Fire Department slapped it with 65 charges under the Alberta Fire Code.

The Calgary Fire Department announced the charges against Okotoks-based Premium Fire Protection Ltd. and 10 of its employees Monday after a seven-month investigation.

The fire department alleged the company allowed unqualified and uncertified workers to install alarms, extinguishers and other equipment in large grocery stores, pharmacies and restaurants in Calgary.

Another 15 charges were laid against businesses that hired Premium Fire Protection, which the city is not identifying.

"The Premium Fire Protection team was shocked to receive the alleged citations from the City of Calgary Fire Department," the company said in a statement issued Tuesday morning. 

"Premium Fire Protection Ltd. has more than 70 years of industry experience, spanning nine offices in four provinces and employing over 50 staff. Our number one priority is the safety and security of our clients and the communities in which we operate."

Premium says employees were certified

Premium CEO Kurt Bertrand said in the statement that the company is taking the allegations "extremely seriously" and will thoroughly examine each event in question.

He also alleged the fire department hadn't contacted the company or its employees to get proof of certification.

"Had the City of Calgary Fire Department contacted us or our employees, we would have provided verification of certification. Premium stands behind its work, and it is reaching out to its employees and its customers to provide them with appropriate assurances."

The company said it believes Albertans benefit when service providers, clients and regulators work together to ensure the highest safety standards.

"With this in mind, it is extremely disappointing that the City of Calgary Fire Department did not reach out to verify our employees' professional certifications prior to releasing the citations publicly," it said.

"This step would have prevented the unnecessary citations of our employees and our valued customers."

The company said it looks forward to working with Calgary's fire department to ensure it has the necessary certification that verifies its professionalism and standards.

CBC News reached out Tuesday to the City of Calgary to get the fire department's response to Premium's allegation that the fire department did not contact the company or its employees prior to laying charges.

In response, the city sent a statement, reading: "Premium Fire Protection Ltd. and 10 of their employees have been charged with significant Fire Code violations. The charges are before the Courts."

Fire department's longest probe ever

Deputy fire chief Ken Uzeloc said Monday that his department has never had an investigation that has been so lengthy or resulted in so many charges. It was the result of a witness coming forward to report concerns.

"It's very concerning because we're talking about life safety systems that are there not only for the protection of employees and citizens in these facilities, but also for firefighters who respond to emergencies in these facilities."

Uzeloc said there has been no indication the equipment had actually been installed incorrectly or anyone was in danger.

Under the provincial fire code, companies and people can be fined up to $100,000 or face six months in jail for a first offence and up to $500,000 for subsequent ones, city prosecutor Paul Frank said. Fine amounts are determined in court.

With files from CBC