Thursday January 26, 2012
Emerge Crews Respond In Unison
community pulls together in the face of the Burns Lake mill blast tragedy
Released by the HEU
two dozen HEU members at Lake District Hospital and Health centre in Burns
Lake were called into urgent action last Friday night when a devastating
explosion ripped through the village's Babine Forest Products sawmill around
8:15 p.m., killing two workers and injuring 19 others.
HEU maintenance worker and local vice-chair Blain Cunningham was called back
into work at 8:40 p.m., less than half an hour after the blast and
subsequent fire that eventually gutted the sawmill. He reported for duty
with a heavy heart knowing his brother and son-in-law were both working an
evening shift at the mill.
"The hospital called a Code Orange," says Cunningham. "By the time I
arrived, which was really fast, there were eight ambulances outside of
emergency and all of the injured workers were already inside being treated."
Some patients were transferred to bigger regions like Prince George, with
the more critical ones being airlifted to Vancouver and Edmonton with nurses
or doctors escorting them.
Cunningham reports that HEU members - including LPNs, care aides, lab
assistants, admitting clerks, medical transcriptionists and staff from the
CSR, stores, food services, housekeeping, laundry and maintenance
departments - were an integral
part of the emergency response team, along with RNs, a Native liaison and
people that were here did their job,” he said. “They all
knew their jobs – management, the paramedics and the nursing
team worked together – and everybody was pretty calm. We’ve
had Code Orange practices before, but we’ve never had to put
the plan into action. I was really proud of our HEU members,
the nursing staff and doctors – our care aides and LPNs were
directly taking care of the patients in the triage and
examining rooms. I think it was handled quite
Cunningham said his brother “is traumatized and having
nightmares” from the incident, while his son-in-law remains
in a Vanderhoof hospital with second-degree burns. Sadly,
one of the fatalities was a relative of Cunningham’s wife.
small community and everybody knows everybody, so this has
really affected us. We all have a lot of friends and family
members working at the mill.”
president Ken Robinson
wrote to the Burns Lake local commending them for their
commitment to patients and offering the union’s solidarity.
acts like these that express the true heart and compassion
of health care workers and also highlights how HEU members
go above and beyond to assist members, friends and families
in our communities,” said Robinson.
village’s biggest employer, the tragedy already has dire
economic and social consequences as 250 workers immediately
lost their jobs. And experts say it would cost between 25
and 100 million dollars to rebuild the sawmill – something
the owners and government have not yet committed to do.
Meanwhile, the workers will have to apply for Employment
Insurance and play the waiting game while a decision is made
about the sawmill’s future.
like to help, the United Steelworkers (USW) has launched a
fundraising campaign to support the sawmill workers and
very heart of the labour movement is the notion of
solidarity,” says USW western Canada director Steve Hunt.
“It means that when you’re a union member, you’ll never walk
alone. And we are sending that message to the workers at
Babine Forest Products, to their families and to the
community of Burns Lake; we will stand with you, we will
support you and you will not have to face this alone.”
to the “USW Burns Lake Fund” can be made in person at any
Community Savings Credit Union branch, or by dropping off a
sealed envelope containing your cheque at any B.C. credit
union (addressed to: Community Savings Credit Union, 5108
Joyce Street, Vancouver B.C. V5R 4H1, Transit #11740), or by
mailing a cheque to: Community Savings Credit Union, 5108
Joyce Street, Vancouver, B.C. V5R 4H1, or USW District 3
Office, #300-3920 Norland Avenue, Burnaby, B.C. V5G 4K7).
donated $2,500 to the fund and is encouraging locals to send
their support as well
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