Chelsea firefighters benched after park rescue
By Hunter Cresswell
After saving a man's life, at least two Chelsea firefighters were told not to respond to calls or set foot inside of Chelsea fire stations.
“They were asked not to go on site or on calls,” Chelsea director general John-David McFaul said, adding that they weren’t “suspended” or “relieved of duty.”
Chelsea Volunteer Fire Department Capt. John Pomeroy previously told the Low Down that, on Nov. 13, a man had strayed off official trails near the vista point along the popular Gatineau Park trail near Meech Lake and became stuck on a narrow ledge with no safe way back up to the lookout or to the trail below. He had been there for hours and was near hypothermic when Pomeroy and an unknown number of other Chelsea fire personnel rescued him before his condition deteriorated further and he fell off the cliff.
A rescuer in a harness was lowered by rope from the lookout down to the helpless man; the man was placed in a harness also attached to the rope; and the pair were lowered to the trail below. The man was assessed by paramedics, but not transported to a hospital for treatment.
McFaul said that Chelsea Fire Chief Charles Éthier was on holiday on the day when the rescue took place. McFaul said that the chief wants to talk with both McFaul himself and the involved firefighters about the incident, possibly because it was an unauthorized rescue and in another fire department's territory.
Pomeroy, who’s also a full-time Ottawa firefighter, previously said that he and multiple other Chelsea firefighters are trained to perform high-angle rescues – which take place on pitches steeper than 45 degrees using ropes and other specialized equipment – but the Chelsea fire service doesn’t perform those rescues. The closest high-angle rescue team is in Ottawa and was last in Gatineau Park on Nov. 11 to rescue an injured woman stranded 650 feet up the Eardley Escarpment. Pomeroy previously said that he responded to that call as well, but didn’t end up assisting the other rescuers on scene.
Pontiac Fire Department director Kevin Mansey said that high-angle rescue teams are expensive to maintain for smaller municipalities because of costly training programs and equipment that must be regularly checked and replaced.
Mansey said that the Wolf Trail rescue on Nov. 13 was technically in Pontiac Fire’s jurisdiction, but because access to that area is via Chemin du Lac-Meech, it’s much faster for Chelsea Fire to respond to those calls. Pontiac rescuers would have to circumvent the entire park to get to that area.
McFaul said that Éthier is back from holiday this week and would likely meet with the rescuers to clear up the issue this week.
Éthier didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment. Pomeroy can’t comment on the situation.
Chelsea human resources manager Ghislaine Grenier said that the municipality doesn’t wish to discuss this internal matter with the media.