Golden Years sparks debate

by EVAN MATTHEWS

A Valemount seniors’ living community has upgraded its fire alarm system, but its efficiency is in question, as cost factored into the purchase.
A December 2015 fire at the Golden Years Lodge was caused by an unfortunately perfect set of circumstance, according to Valemount Fire Chief, Rick Lalonde.
“First of all, There was an equipment failure,” says Lalonde. “Secondly, there was improper storage of combustibles in the furnace room.”
A piece of equipment came loose on the furnace due to a passing train, according to Lalonde, which ignited flammable material inside a mop bucket.
The caretaker of the building at the time, Rich Meyer, was able to quickly put out the fire, but failed to call 9-1-1.
“We’ve done some work with the residents as far as protocol, and what to do in case of a fire,” says McEachern.
“We’ve gone through it, and we had the fire department on hand as well,” she says.
In addition to the fire protocol review, and immediately following the fire, the Valemount Senior Citizens Housing Society (VSCHS) had the alarm system in the building redone — making sure it’s up to code, according to Deen McEachern, chair of the VSCHS board.
“All the alarms have been redone, so they’re all up to snuff,” says McEachern.
However, back in December, Lalonde suggested the seniors lodge wire the alarm into the telephone wire, as he says it would be the ideal equipment in case of emergency.
The VSCHS manages the Golden Years Lodge, and the society has a fixed budget, according to McEachern, which makes added expenses like the top-end fire alarm less feasible.
The quote to upgrade the fire alarm system at the lodge into the telephone wire is about $7,000.
“We were looking at the possibility, but a couple of thousand dollars is one thing, but $7,000 is another,” says McEachern, noting the residents haven’t considered fundraising or paying out of pocket for the upgrades.
“Most are pretty bare bones… and don’t have extra funds,” she says.
There are 12 residents in the Golden Years Lodge, according to McEachern, meaning the average out-of-pocket cost to each resident would be $583.33 to link the fire alarm in with emergency personnel.
“It’d be best if the seniors didn’t have to investigate, and then make a phone call,” says Lalonde. “It would be in their best interest to have something better than they have now.”
There is no timeline for such upgrades, McEachern says.