The head of Montreal’s fire department, Richard Liebmann, was on the hot seat Tuesday afternoon, forced to respond to questions surrounding a moratorium on fire inspections and whether or not it played a role in the deadly fire in Old Montreal back in March.
The Globe and Mail found through a memorandum that the policy was implemented in 2018 and had prevented a review of the building’s safety, years prior to the fire.
Liebmann said that inspections were still happening but admitted they suspended specific aspects related to escape routes and alarm systems.
“The moratorium that we put in place was on the way that we do the expertise on complex dossiers of inspections of evacuation routes and some aspects of the judicial process – that was suspended,” said Liebmann. “Many things are simple to do, they’re corrected immediately or within the following ways but elements that touch the building code, the construction code are much more complex and we’re trying to find a better way to do things, because the old way was not working properly which is why it was suspended.”
Liebmann says they were having trouble forcing owners into compliance, and were continually losing court cases.
“We’re finding better ways to do things in order to make sure we run things through a process that allows the return to conformity and the safety of the building rather than sending the dossier to the courts and letting it stay there and linger a long time, and ultimately losing the cases,” Liebmann explained.
The moratorium came to light following a tragic fire in old Montreal that killed seven people and injured nine.
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It was reported that the building had several issues and wasn’t complying with fire safety rules.
Liebmann said he couldn’t comment on the specific building citing ongoing investigations, but explained that the incident accelerated actions geared towards lifting the moratorium.
“We’re in the process of putting procedures in place in order to completely lift the moratorium, but there’s no specific date,” Liebmann said.
Montreal mayor Valerie Plante said on Twitter that the city has asked the controller general to accompany the fire department to clarify the situation.
“The fire in Old Montreal is a true tragedy. We have to do absolutely everything in order to shed light on the situation,” she wrote.
She also points to the ongoing coroner investigation into the fire, adding it will help evaluate current procedures.
As for the municipal opposition, Ensemble Montréal leader Aref Salem told Global News Liebmann’s answers left them with more questions and they will continue to push for clarity.
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