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Inquest continues next week

By Keith Lacey It took about 13 minutes for a fire truck to arrive at the scene after an emergency call about a house fire had been placed 16 months ago.
By Keith Lacey

It took about 13 minutes for a fire truck to arrive at the scene after an emergency call about a house fire had been placed 16 months ago.

The fire truck, it was revealed at a coronerÂ?s inquest, was dispatched from Valley EastÂ?s central fire station, which is located about eight kilometres from the home where the tragic fire broke out at 4141 Roy St. in Hanmer just after noon on April 22, 2001.

The inquest has been delayed until Thursday.

Pearl Shaw, 75, who went back inside to try and save the lives of her great-grandchildren, Asha-Jade McLean, 3, and Ellias McLean, 4, all perished in the blaze.

A coronerÂ?s inquest, which started last Monday, is investigating what happened that fateful afternoon with a goal of preventing a similar tragedy from happening again.

Numerous witnesses, many who tried so hard to get inside the home to try and rescue the children and Shaw, have repeatedly testified they felt fire crews were too slow in getting to the home after flames and smoke were detected.

Phone records indicate the first 9-1-1 call was placed at 12:14 pm that day and paramedic Darren Grace testified Wednesday he and his partner arrived on the scene at 12:17.

The fire truck actually left about a minute before the ambulance did, but the smaller ambulance vehicle got to the scene a minute or two quicker, proceeding along Highway 69 N. towards Hanmer, Grace testified.

A second fire truck arrived very shortly after the first one, said Grace.
At the time of the fireÂ?which has since been upgradedÂ?all emergency calls had to be transferred before firefighters were directly contacted, said Grace.

At that time, a 9-1-1 call from Valley East would be answered at the Greater Sudbury Police communications centre in Sudbury, then transferred to Northern Communications once it was identified an emergency had arisen in Valley East.

An operator with Northern Communications would then share information with the 9-1-1 caller and then contact the only full-time firefighter at the central fire station in the Valley.

That firefighter then had to take the time to contact volunteer firefighters on call.

The procedure has changes since the fire. Now an emergency call in Valley East is answered at the downtown communication scentre, but the central fire station in the Valley is directly contacted by the 9-1-1 operator.

Earlier testimony from several witnesses revealed there were numerous people who acted heroically that day.

Neighbour Douglas Croteau and his wife Carole both tried to get inside to rescue the children and Shaw, but simply couldnÂ?t handle the thick smoke and intense heat.

Neighbour Wayne Collins tried twice to get inside the home and called out to the two children to crawl towards him, but they refused. Collins also have to leave the burning home because of the thick smoke.

When the inquest resumes Thursday, itÂ?s expected the many firefighters who were on the scene that day will give testimony.

A three-woman, two-man jury is expected to forward numerous recommendations to try and prevent a similar tragedy from happening again.

Every witness so far has recommended to the jury that Valley East needs more than six full-time firefighters, which means thereÂ?s only one or two on duty at any given time.

It has been revealed at the inquest that fire protection services in Valley East still rely heavily on volunteer firefighters, who are called by the full-time staff on a on-call basis whenever an emergency call is received.

The presiding coroner for this inquest is Dr. Peter Clark.