Fire on the Plaza St-Hubert: lawsuit against Montreal

pour-degeler-entrees-eau-hiverThe failures in the operations of thaw water inlets occurred last winter haunt the City of Montreal. The insurer of four buildings damaged by a violent fire possibly caused by the electricity used to thaw the pipes continues the City for $ 1 million.

The March 5, 2015, a violent fire destroyed a bridal shop in the Plaza St-Hubert. Three neighboring buildings were also heavily damaged. Soon, suspicion turned to the thaw water inlets operations carried out by the City of Montreal, since these transactions took place a few doors from the burning shop.

In its suit, the company Intact Insurance says that “this fire occurred in particular following a piping thawing operation is an integral part of the water system of the City of Montreal.” The company accuses the city of having “failed or neglected to take all the usual precautions and measures necessary maintenance, verification and control to prevent an incident of this nature occurs.”

The insurer is also pursuing the contractor responsible thaw operations. Intact Insurance believes the company, a numbered company, was “incompetent and negligent in the supervision and execution of the work entrusted to him.”

In a lawsuit filed in Superior Court on September 1, Intact Insurance claims and $ 1,047,000 to the City of Montreal, to the contractor who performed the work as well as the insurer of the latter. The City chose not to comment on the matter because it is before the courts.

Controversial technique

Recall that last winter’s intense cold froze thousands of water entry, these pipes used to connect the building to the City’s distribution network. Montreal said they had to thaw frozen pipes about 2,600 buildings. To achieve this, the City has focused mainly on electric induction, a technique that consists of inducing an electrical current in the pipes to melt the ice.

The technique is controversial, however, since it could cause fires if certain precautions are not taken. Some cities, like Longueuil, have also stopped using this practice because of the fire risk. The Fire Department of Montreal (SSIM) had also acknowledged it is investigating four fires that were caused by this last winter thaw method. The press asked last spring a copy of the results of these surveys under the Access to Information Act, but the City of Montreal has not responded to this request, despite the 30 days provided by law yet.

Shortly after the fire at the Plaza St-Hubert, the City of Montreal had decreed a pause in the use of electricity to thaw the pipes in order to review the safety of the method. Following this review, the City had reviewed its procedure and ruled that electricity thawing operations must now be carried out only with certified machines, under the supervision of two master electricians.

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