By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
An electrical fire in the basement beneath the emergency department of Lakeridge Health Oshawa caused patients to be evacuated from the ward, many being moved into the main atrium of the hospital during the evening of March 26.
At approximately 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, an electrical panel in the basement of the hospital ignited. Oshawa Fire Services and Durham Region Police were quick on the scene, shutting down traffic and rerouting ambulances to Lakeridge’s hospitals in Bowmanville and Ajax.
“Our staff worked really well with hospital staff and our guys did a real great job of getting in real quick and minimizing the fire and keeping damage and smoke migration at a minimal,” says Derrick Clark, Oshawa’s fire chief.
The bigger issue was the smoke that drifted into the emergency department directly above, forcing the evacuation of patients into the main atrium of the hospital.
According to Lloyd Rang, the director of communications at Lakeridge, the move happened really quickly, with everything being set up in under an hour following the fire. Save for the rerouting of ambulances, he says there was no disruption of service at the hospital.
Following a clean-up, the hospital was given the all-clear to return to the emergency department at 1 a.m. on March 27.
“If you came here at 4 o’clock in the afternoon on Sunday and you came back on Monday at 7 a.m., you would never know that anything had happened,” Rang says. “That’s a testament to the skill of the physicians and staff.”
The cost of the damages has yet to be determined.
According to Clark, the incident is being referred to the Ontario Fire Marshall for a follow-up, but simply because of the location, and not because much more investigating needs to be done as the fire was confirmed as an electrical issue.
“From what I understand, there was a malfunction in the panel that was involved and there were some pretty high voltage circuits in there, so they were supplying some pumps and different high-level capacity electrical components,” Clark explains. “So something malfunctioned and caught fire.”
Over the years, Clark says Oshawa firefighters have responded to smaller fires at the hospital, but nothing of this magnitude.
“So this was a pretty significant incident for us and have to set up unified command with Durham Regional Police, EMC and hospital administration to make sure all angles were covered,” he says. “It could have been a lot worse.”