Firefighters fix problems at Occupy encampment
Published Sunday, November 13, 2011 12:46PM PST
Frustrated by a failure of those in the Occupy Vancouver camp at the Vancouver Art Gallery to live up to a court order to be fire safe, the Vancouver Fire Department checked each tent one by one Saturday morning.
Officers found mostly cooperative residents at the tent city who were willing to follow orders, and by about noon all but a few problems were cleared up, said Fire Chief John McKearney.
"They were 80 per cent out of compliance," said McKearney, adding that the main issues were keeping the tents widely spaced and taking down tarpaulins, both which would hamper crews' reaction in an emergency.
"We were successful as a team to get them into compliance…I'm pleased it was done without incident," he said.
Occupiers said they welcomed the inspections by the firefighters.
"We're working closely with firemen, in a peaceful way, and it's going to be flawless," said Yann Savard.
Occupy Vancouver has now been camping at the Vancouver Art Gallery plaza for four weeks. The goal of the protest has been to highlight wealth disparity and the growing gap between the rich and the poor, and is part of dozens of similar protests.
On Nov. 9, Justice Anne MacKenzie of the B.C. Supreme Court ordered the protesters to follow a fire safety order, which was handed down after an overdose on the site nearly claimed a life.
The order included having tents three feet apart, removing tarps, and clearing access for emergency crews. Yesterday firefighters indicated that they were not happy with how the order was being followed and intended to inspect the lands today.
The City of Vancouver is applying for a court injunction to remove the tents from the Vancouver Art Gallery lands. That argument is set for Nov. 16.
"The key message is that we support the right of people to protest, but there should be no tent city," Vancouver city councilor Geoff Meggs told CTV News.
Failure to follow fire orders has been a factor in declining support for Occupy Vancouver among city residents, said pollster Mario Conseco.
"The reality is that a lot of people are losing their favourable views of Occupy Vancouver at this point," he said.
The fire chief hinted that if protesters cannot comply with fire safety rules that it could be a factor in the city's arguments before the judge on Nov 16.
"All of the evidence will be going through our legal department to the judge," said McKearney.
Today protesters took to the streets to highlight Vancouver's high housing prices, which protesters said needed to change. Protesters marched from the Vancouver Art Gallery to Three Harbour Green at Cordova and Thurlow St., before heading to the Woodward's building and the Downtown Eastside.
"We need more affordable housing accommodation in Vancouver," said Rod McGill of the Canadian Auto Workers' union, who supports the protest, and marched with about 100 other people in the rain.