Occupy to obey fire rules or lose power: mayor
Published Sunday, November 13, 2011 6:26PM PST
Vancouver's mayor said if protesters at Occupy Vancouver can't comply with fire safety orders, the city might cut power to the encampment stage.
Gregor Robertson made the comments a day after firefighters spent hours ordering specific changes to tents on the Vancouver Art Gallery plaza – and still found some tents were breaking the rules.
"I anticipate that power will be shut off if there isn't compliance with the fire bylaw," Robertson told reporters today.
"They have to continue complying. If it slides backwards, then the city will be forced to intervene again and take more serious measures," he said.
Dozens of people are still camping at the Vancouver Art Gallery, more than four weeks after the first protest on the site. Many listen to music and speeches coming from a wooden stage set up on the stairs on the building's north side.
Robertson acknowledged that people on the Occupy Vancouver site were generally cooperative with firefighters' orders, so he wouldn't order the power cut immediately.
On Saturday morning, firefighters and police checked tents one by one to make sure they were complying with a fire safety order, which meant having no open flames, spacing tents out three feet apart, and not using tarps that could block emergency crews.
Assistant Fire Chief Joe Foster told CTV News on Sunday that he was happy with the changes the protesters made Saturday, but within hours the site had started to deteriorate.
"It had regressed. A lot of the tarps that we had taken off were replaced. Every time we turn around there's something they're not complying with," Foster said.
Foster pointed to a handful of tents that had tarps put back on them, and noted that several tents had moved closer to each other. But he did say the encampment had improved substantially since they found it Saturday morning.
The fire department is also concerned about one candle at the memorial to Ashlie Gough, who died on the site last weekend, and another described as a "sacred flame" at the native elder's tent.
"The winds in Vancouver come up. It doesn't take much for a tent to go over onto a flame and then it all goes up," said Foster, adding that a barrel fire has also been used at the site
He said he is trying to find an electric light that could work to substitute for a candle as a compromise.
However, Fire Chief John McKearney has said that any non-compliance on the site would be recorded by the city's legal department and make it to a court hearing on Wednesday, where the city will argue to remove the tent city for good.
One Occupier, Jamie Grosvenor, said that most Occupiers want to work with the fire department.
"We've dealt with every hurdle that's been thrown at us so far," he said. "We've managed to work things out with everyone. We are a peaceful group. We're here to make a peaceful solution to these problems."
The BC Coroners Service confirmed that Gough's death, on Nov. 5, was caused by an overdose of cocaine and heroin.
Coroner Owen Court said it was impossible to tell whether she had taken the drugs together or separately.