Ottawa

Low water pressure hampered saving church: firefighter

Firefighters had trouble putting out a blaze that destroyed a 19th-century church in Aylmer five months ago partly because they couldn't get enough water pressure from the city's aging pipes, a firefighter claims.

Firefighters had trouble putting out a blaze that destroyed a 19th-century church in Aylmer five months ago partly because they couldn't get enough water pressure from the city's aging pipes, a firefighter claims.

Stéphane Noël was one of the firefighters on the scene June 11 when flames tore through Saint Paul's Roman Catholic Church, a historic landmark built from stone120 years ago. Noël, now president of the Gatineau Firefighters' Association, told CBC's French-language service Radio-Canada last week that there just wasn't enough water to allow firefighters to do their jobs properly.

On Friday, Gatineau Mayor Marc Bureau denied such problems existed. He said he had spoken with his fire chief and reports showed there was enough water pressure available.

"I think what they [the firefighters] are trying to do, actually, is simply light other fires," he told Radio-Canada in French.

He suggested difficult, ongoing contract negotiations between the firefighters union and the city were the real issue behind the claims.

Insurance company mulls lawsuit

Officials with Ottawa Fire Services, which had been called to the fire to help the Gatineau firefighters, told Radio-Canada that after consulting their own report, they were unable to confirm Noël's claims.

However, the company that insured the church is taking Noël's claims seriously.

Michael Barnabé, director of the Interwest Church Mutual Insurance Company, said he has sent a legal notice to the City of Gatineau letting officials know he is considering a lawsuit.

The company, which insures churches all over the Outaouais, has paid out $3.5 million in claims from the fire. Barnabé said he heard about water pressure problems the day after the fire. He added that such problems aren't new in Aylmer.

The church fire has been deemed an arson, but no suspects have been arrested.

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