11/18/2014 13:57 EST | Updated 01/18/2015 05:59 EST

L'Isle-Verte fire response criticised at coroner's inquest

The coroner presiding over the inquest into a fire at a L’Isle-Verte seniors' home heard harsh words for the fire department's response at the Résidence du Havre.

The coordinator for fire safety for the Rivière-du-Loup region, Christian Chénard-Guay, told the inquest that when he arrived on the scene about 45 minutes after the building’s fire alarm was triggered, he saw no measures in place to evacuate the residents from the building.

“People were left on their own,” Chénard-Guay told coroner CyrilleDelâge.

Chénard-Guay also told the inquest there was no command post in place to help facilitate rescue and firefighting efforts.

A witness on the first day of the hearings testified to the importance of setting up a command post.

Chénard-Guay testified about a fire chief’s responsibilities when a high-risk building such as a seniors' residence catches fire.

He said the fire chief must call for help from other fire departments immediately.

“One fire department cannot do the job,” he said.

Chénard-Guay also told the inquest that residents had previously practised emergency evacuations from the home.

Owner worried about fire safety

He said owner RochBernier was proactive when it came to fire safety.

Residents practised the evacuations on two occasions, once in the spring of 2012, and again in the autumn of 2013, a few months before the fire that killed 32 seniors.

Both times, Chénard-Guay said residents made it out of the building within eight minutes.

Chénard-Guay confirmed there was an agreement in place among fire departments in the region to coordinate in the event of a major fire.

The agreement was signed on January 1, 2014, a few weeks before the fire.  However it had not yet been implemented.

Chénard-Guay would have been the person responsible for coordinating efforts to fight the fire at the Résidence du Havre had the agreement been put into effect.