Firefighters admit to taking beer salvaged from hotel blaze
Published Tuesday, June 22, 2010 5:35PM PDT
Two Oliver, B.C., firefighters have been suspended after admitting they tapped a keg that was rescued from the Mesa Hotel after it was destroyed by fire last month.
The keg was one of six removed and taken to the town's fire hall after the blaze was extinguished.
Mayor Pat Hampson lamented the scandal, saying it put the town's trust in the volunteer fire department in jeopardy. "We do, as a town, have a lot of respect for our firefighters," he said. "It definitely is hurting some people, and that really is quite tragic."
RCMP Cpl. Dan Moskaluk confirmed that Mounties are investigating the incident, and that several firefighters have been interviewed.
"We have not determined yet how many people are directly involved," he said. If investigators can build a case, charges of theft under $5,000 are possible, Moskaluk said.
The hotel owners have been paid for the keg, Hampson said, and the entire department has accepted group responsibility for the incident.
"I'm impressed by that. It shows integrity to stand up and say we did something stupid," he said. "I don't believe there was any malice or intent to do wrong. They'd been under a lot of situational stress, these guys have to hold down jobs as well as respond to fire calls."
City council will not order any further suspensions or punishments until the RCMP investigation is complete, he said, though a third firefighter has since come forward to admit involvement.
A ban on drinking liquor in any town building was also implemented in response to the controversy.
The fire broke out on May 23 at the hotel's Rumour Mill Bar and Grill before quickly spreading throughout the three-storey structure. Crews from Osoyoos and Okanagan Falls were called in to help battle the blaze, but the building was completely gutted.
No injuries were reported.